Comic book reviews: Faust / 777 The Wrath

With Halloween right around the corner, I wanted to do a horror-themed post. And, as I’m stuck at home this morning with a hurricane bearing down on the area, now is the perfect time to sit down and write.  I am going to be discussing Faust/777 The Wrath: Darkness in Collision, a graphic novel written by David Quinn and illustrated by Tim Vigil.

Faust/777 The Wrath is a side project to the main series that Quinn & Vigil have been producing on and off since 1989, Faust: Love of the Damned, published by Rebel Studios.  A modern-day reinterpretation of Christopher Marlow’s play The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Quinn & Vigil’s series can be described as a cocktail of ultra-violence and explicit sex laced with extreme profanity.  It concerns how John Jaspers sells his soul to a diabolical figure known as M (as in Mephistopheles), in the process becoming a brutal, bloodthirsty vigilante.

Faust/777 The Wrath, which was released through Avatar Press, was actually my first exposure to the entire Faust “universe.”  I purchased a copy of the trade paperback from Quinn and Vigil at one of the old Big Apple Comic Cons (ironically this was in the basement of a church) back around 2001.  The first time I read it, I was in the dark about the back story of Jaspers and M, so I struggled to comprehend exactly what was taking place.  Even though it was a difficult read because of this, I nevertheless enjoyed it, and found the characters & situations intriguing enough that I subsequently read a handful of issues of Love of the Damned, as well as another tie-in miniseries, Singha’s Talons.  I also have on DVD the movie adaptation directed by Bryan Yuzna.  That said, it has been a number of years since I’ve read those comics, and my memory of them has sort of faded.  So it was interesting to re-read Faust/777 The Wrath last night for the first time in a decade.  Knowing the basic background of Quinn & Vigil’s story arc made for a much more informed experience.

I am not certain if Faust/777 The Wrath takes place contemporary to the events of Love of the Damned, or subsequent.  But as it opens, M has been reduced to an un-substantive spirit, and John Jaspers is “lost in a purgatory of [his] own rage and pain.”  In order to regain corporeal form M needs the blood of the undead vigilante known as the Wrath, as well as the sexual energies of the Wrath’s lover/mistress, the twisted fallen angel Kia.  M dispatches his sadistic wife, the satanic seductress Claire, to capture the pair and bring them to his mansion.  The abduction is observed by Joanna Tan, a woman who, much like Jaspers, sold her soul to M in exchange for a pair of lethal blades (the eponymous Singha’s Talons) and a set of superhuman abilities.  Joanna is out to revenge herself on M, and follows Claire back to his domicile.  She sets about freeing the Wrath.  Meanwhile, Claire has used that undying vigilante’s blood to begin to restore M to physicality, and to complete the process she seduces Kia.  While Joanna and the Wrath are busy cutting a bloody swath through M’s followers, the revived tempter takes his turn having sex with Kia, giving him access to the energies he needs to return Jaspers to this plane of existence.

Faust / 777 The Wrath: Darkness in Collision

As you can undoubtedly tell from my summation of events, Faust/777 The Wrath is an extremely brutal tale rife with hard-core sex.  It could be easy to dismiss it as exploitive crap, except for the fact is that it is so very well written and illustrated.  David Quinn’s scripting is magnificent.  He gives all the best lines to M, a twisted philosopher who remarks that “the desires we deny find us as fate.”  M is the quintessential figure of the tempter, deftly mixing truth and lies to confuse & ensnare his victims.  His relationship with those whose souls he has bought, such as Joanna Tan and John Jaspers, is complex.  In one respect he uses them as pawns, manipulating them; in another he regards them as his children, taking perverse pride & joy in their bloody actions.

Joana Tan is an intriguing figure, and much about her past is tantalizingly alluded to throughout Faust/777 The Wrath.  She is extremely conflicted, unsure if her deal with M was a gift or a curse.  I believe that her origins are delved into in the aforementioned Singha’s Talons miniseries.  I really wish I could recall what took place in that story arc.  If I could, I’d re-read it now, but I believe those issues are buried (along with most of my collection) amongst a huge pile of boxes in my parents’ basement in their house up in Connecticut.  So those books are unfortunately out of reach for the time being.  In any case, in many ways Joanna is the protagonist of Faust/777 The Wrath, and after reading this arc, she is a character I would be happy to see again.

Kia and the Wrath are also intriguing.  They are an extremely dysfunctional couple, engaged in the ultimate love/hate relationship, their drugs of choice sex and violence.  As I later found out, they originated in a separate series by Quinn & Vigil, published by Avatar in 1998.  So that makes Faust/777 The Wrath something of a crossover.  The book ends with Kia observing to the Wrath “I don’t know whether you’re sliding towards life, or death. We’re changing.”  It left me interested to see where the characters went after this.

The artwork on Faust/777 The Wrath is absolutely gorgeous.  Tim Vigil, aided & abetted by inkers Tim Tyler & Johnny B, delivers exquisitely detailed work.  Vigil is an artist whose style can be simultaneously beautiful and grotesque.  His women are sexy, his violence visceral.  Claire, the “artist of sexual violence,” is rendered in a stunning coalescence of eroticism and savagery.  I’d like to describe Vigil’s artwork as a fusion of gothic horror and black metal, if that makes any sort of sense.  The soundtrack to his illustrations, and to Quinn’s writing, that I’d chose would have to be the album Sinthetic by Shade Empire.

I think it was timely to take a look back at this as, after a nearly quarter century stretch, the flagship title in Quinn & Vigil’s dark universe, Faust: Love of the Damned, is finally coming to completion.  The penultimate installment, Act 14, was released this month, with the final chapter, Act 15, due out before the end of the year.  With the conclusion of Love of the Damned, I hope that Rebel Studios will now be able to publish a compilation volume of the entire series.  After that, ideally it would be fantastic for them to collect all of the now out-of-print tie-in series published by Avatar, among them Faust/777 The Wrath and Singha’s Talons.

And looking to the future?  I would enjoy seeing Quinn & Vigil continue their long-time partnership, and have them return to the stories of Joanna Tan and Kia & the Wrath.  As I observed in looking at Faust/777 The Wrath, there is a great deal of potential to these characters, and I would be very much enthused if Quinn & Vigil were to continue chronicling their bizarre, twisted adventures.