Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy series manages to tick off all the proverbial boxes for a near-perfect horror thriller. But beyond the confines of genre definitions, she is weaving a fabulous story full of intrigue, strong characterization, and scene defining conflict. In Mercy #2, Adolfo cranks up the tension to 10.
The first issue planted the seeds of the narrative, while Mercy #2 has several plot threads cross paths, culminating into a climactic finish. Chapter Two, aptly named “It Can’t Be A Coincidence”, has all the major players of Woodsburgh interacting in unique ways. First introductions give way to new conflict among characters and unexpected reveals. Yet, for every revelation, there is another question, readers are left with further queries for us to ruminate over as we eagerly await the next entry into the series.
Image Comics’ synopsis of the issue reads:
The Woodsburgh Devil strikes again when another innocent victim falls into the clutches of the elusive killer. Meanwhile, Lady Hellaine invites the local bourgeoisie to a social event, attracting the attention of the powerful Lady Swanson. Subterfuge and lies emerge as the second chapter of MIRKA ANDOLFO’s new project divulges a shocking revelation.
Any graphic novel of merit works best when its writer and artist are working in concert to present the best version of the story possible. In the case of Mercy, Mirka Andolfo is pulling double duty as both writer and artist. By no means do either the writing or the art take prominence over the other — Andolfo is hitting it out of the park on both fronts. Anyone familiar with Andolfo’s past work, such as Unnatural or her work for DC and Marvel, knows full well how vibrant her art can be and her talent as a storyteller. Mercy #2 is no exception.
Everything in this issue just works. Sex scenes are both sensual and animalistic, Ms. Hellaine’s cold demeanor emanates from the page, and the graphically bloody scenes of terror can be likened to the best horror films. But Andolfo can depict a wide range of emotion that stands out. A lot is going on emotionally in Mercy #2 — an entire party in awe of Ms. Hellaine, Rory’s “Uncle”‘s unbridled hatred for her, and even Rory’s perpetual misery. Yet, the art always suites the sentiment of the scene/character seamlessly, furthering the quality of the narrative.
In terms of pace, Mercy #2 is a slow simmer that builds throughout the issue leading to a massive cliffhanger. The first third of the issue has the town of Woodburgh abuzz as preparations are underway for a party at the behest of Lady Ellaine. Suffice to say the night of the party does not disappoint. The issue deserves to be read for yourself to enjoy the nuances and details within.
The pace works well here. The first half of the comic provides enough character interaction to form new relationships amongst the cast while providing insight into the major players of the series. By issue’s end, the next chapter of the series begins to take shape. But therein lies Mercy #2’s most significant aspect, relationship building, and conflict.
A fortuitous introduction gives way to a series of scenes focusing on Mr. Goodwill and Lady Hellaine. Clearly, they are the antagonists of Mercy, but they are never portrayed as one-dimensional, being fleshed out with every new scene they are in. Their relationship is ambivalent at best. They rely on one another to reach their end goal (which remains unclear), but their interactions feel formal, yet co-dependent. By the final page, readers should look at them in a new light, specifically Lady Hellaine. Somehow, Andolfo manages to infuse complexity into Lady Hellaine’s monstrous (literally) character.
Then there are the townspeople themselves. Gloria Swanson still holds the death of her husband in the forefront of her mind. The mine explosion tied to “the strangers” has left its indelible mark on all the townsfolk, Gloria most of all. Gloria is shattered emotionally, yet manages to exude strength. For example, Gloria comes face to face with Lady Hellaine during the party, and it becomes a subtle war of words between them. What shines here is the subverted conflict during their conversation. It isn’t so much what is being said, but what lies just beneath. There’s a tension that can be cut with a knife.
With so much character depth and emotion in the issue, it would be hard to ignore Rory. Readers cannot help but be drawn to her plight. Orphaned and working for her self-designated “uncle” in his cotton factory, Rory is entrenched in a life of misery. Yet, maybe to a fault, Rory manages her despair through her faith. It isn’t an easy subject to tackle, but it’s handled well. So much so that Rory believes Lady Hellaine to be her mother, an angel from the heavens. Every scene Rory is in is brimming with sentiment; the audience can’t help but be involved in her particular storyline.
But even horror fans have something to latch onto here. Andoflo doesn’t skimp on the carnage, lending gravitas to the danger threatening our beloved character’s fates. No one seems safe, thereby making every interaction that more intense. And yet, with so many moving parts of the narrative, a new mystery thread is introduced.
Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy #2 is another notch on the belt of Andolfo. Her work in the past has proven her prowess as both artist and writer, and Mercy #2 is no exception. Damnation, redemption, salvation, and the human condition are seamlessly woven into the fabric of the narrative. “It Can’t Be a Coincidence” works on two fronts: as a single issue of merit and as one part of the series, pushing the narrative while keeping fans enthralled throughout. Simply put, it’s a can’t-miss issue in a series that deserves your attention.