Comic book reviews: Faust Love of the Damned Acts 14 & 15

“Nothing on earth consumes a man more quickly than the passion of resentment.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 1888

Writer David Quinn and artist Tim Vigil’s erotic horror magnum opus Faust: Love of the Damned made its debut in 1988. Now, 25 years later, the final two chapters of the saga have been released by Rebel Studios, with Act 14 coming out in October 2012 and Act 15 in late December.

A quarter century may seem like a rather long time to produce 15 issues. To be fair, during that time Quinn & Vigil also collaborated on several Faust-related side projects published through Avatar. And, of course, they each had various other books they worked on separately. I think that Faust: Love of the Damned was their baby, though, and they really wanted to take their time with it. Was it worth the wait? Well, I’ve only been following their work for about a dozen years now, so I cannot speak for those who have been here since the beginning. But for myself, I thought that the final two acts were pretty darn good.

Faust Love of the Damned Act 15 cover
Faust: Love of the Damned Act 15 cover

As Act 14 opens, the diabolical M, who is strongly implied to be the fallen angel Lucifer, is preparing to bring about the end of the world via the summoning of a titanic seven-headed serpentine monstrosity while impregnating Jade DeCamp. To accomplish the later, M enthralls Jade and, twisted fiend that he is, assumes the visage of her father, who molested her when she was a child. Meanwhile, John Jaspers, the man who sold his soul to M and became a psychotic vigilante, has risen from the grave, determined to thwart M.

Quinn’s scripting is very sophisticated and labyrinthine, his dialogue for M especially so. As was pointed out by Vigil in an interview posted on the Rebel Studios message boards, M is in love with the sound of his own voice. Indeed, the infernal one spends a great deal of his time in these two chapters philosophizing aloud about the state of the universe while he is in the midst of attempting to destroy it.

Actually, it is very interesting to look at M’s ideology. Unlike many depictions of the Devil in fiction, he is not motivated to commit evil simply for the sake of being evil. M appears to have a deep-rooted resentment against God. All these millennia later, he is still embittered at having been cast out of Heaven. M looks upon humanity, who God supposedly favored, and is actually disgusted that mortals so easily fall to his infernal temptations, turning the world into a dark morass of corruption and despair. As a result, he has adopted a goal of cosmic nihilism, a wish to sweep away everything in existence, including “the so-called Almighty’s miserable mistake, his foul offal… infestation Man.”

Faust: Love of the Damned is very much a story of fathers and sons. The pattern of M having failed and defied God is repeated in the relationship between M and John Jaspers. When Jaspers gave his soul away, he was remade as a near-unstoppable killing machine. However, he did not live up to M’s expectations, and then chose to stand in opposition to him. M is disgusted that Jaspers has rejected his creator, and is unappreciative of the “gifts” he was given. In Act 15, a bitter M tells him “I empowered you with pure desire, liberated you from the fog of thought and trivia of reason. Made you a god!” And, just as much of M’s motivation for wanting to bring about the apocalypse is to thumb his nose at the Divine One, so too does Jaspers want to stop M, to not out of any particular love for the world, but simply out of spite for his surrogate father.

It is to Quinn’s credit that M, despite being an extremely depraved figure, is not totally unsympathetic. Beneath his sick perversity, one can perceive the actions of a being angrily striking out at the perceived injustices heaped upon him by his creator, looking upon the world and questioning why the Almighty allows such chaos & despair. Underneath it all, M is actually a very human figure.

Another relationship poisoned by jealousy and bitterness is the one between M and Claire, his sadistic, sexually perverted paramour. The later has thrown in her lot against her demonic spouse, spurned by his choice to use the “innocence” of Jade DeCamp to usher in annihilation, rather than “a chalice so befouled.”

Quinn’s characters are deeply dysfunctional. They represent a microcosm of humanity, demonstrating how the potential nobility and goodness that we can be capable of is all too often derailed by our petty resentments, our obsessions with the past, and our defiant desires to take charge of our own destinies at the expense of all others.

Casting an eye at the art on Faust: Love of the Damned, one finds exquisitely detailed work from the pen of Tim Vigil. Simultaneously beautiful and twisted, Vigil’s art is stunning. One of the benefits of this series spanning a 25 year period is that we can witness his development as an illustrator and storyteller. Looking at the early chapters, you can see a young artist with energy and a great deal of potential, albeit with certain rough edges. Fast forward a quarter century, and Vigil work has become an extremely polished, his layouts dynamic, his inking full of precise detail. The grey wash tones add a tremendous amount of atmosphere to the finished work. Really, it looks magnificent. Even on the pages that are awash with graphic violence and explicit sex are stunning for the lavish attention that Vigil gives the subject matter.

And that brings me to a crucial point. Faust: Love of the Damned is undoubtedly an X-rated affair, intended for a mature, adult audience. But it seldom seems to stray across the line into exploitation. The blood and nudity, the acts of copulation, rarely seem to be glamorized. I do think that the cover to Act 14, showing Jade with her face covered in gooey white gunk, is one of the exceptions, and is probably an image that ought to have been saved for the interior artwork. But the majority of the time, the creators are not setting out to sexually arouse their readers, but to achieve an atmosphere of disgust and revulsion, feelings of true horror.

(Having said that, it seems like Vigil does enjoy doodling naughty stuff 🙂 )

Now that Faust: Love of the Damned has concluded I hope that Quinn and Vigil will be able to reprint the entirety of the series. I’d certainly like to be able to re-read it from beginning to end, especially since I’ve never seen most of the middle chapters. I believe I would get a lot more out of this story once I am able to experience it in its entirety. In any case, most of the material has been collected into a series of Communion editions, which, along with the new issues, can be purchased at the Broken Halos website. Definitely check it out.

To reiterate what I wrote in my October 29th blog entry, now that Quinn & Vigil have finished the story of John Jaspers, it would be great to see them return to some of the other characters from the Faust universe, such as Joanna Tan and the pairing of Kia & The Wrath. There is a lot of potential in them, and their past stories have left me interested in learning what happens to them next. Whatever the case, Quinn & Vigil are an amazing creative team, so I hope that we will see further collaborations from them in the future.

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.