With the culmination of the Mirka Adolfo’s Mercy series nearing ever closer, issue #3 stands out as a turning point for the series. Each issue builds on the tension and narrative drive from the one prior — “What… Is a Mother?” continues the trend.
This issue is filled with conflict, both internal and external, and manages to make something as simple as having a guest for dinner rife with friction. All the major players have raised the stakes without showing their full hand. The central mystery of the entire series — who (or what) is the Woodsburgh Devil? — has yet to be revealed. However, there are more than enough scenes brimming to the cusp with mystery to hold your attention. The first arc may have reached its end, but Mercy #3 will have you questioning your views on everything that came before and what remains on the road ahead.
Image Comics’ synopsis of the issue reads:
The first story arc of MIRKA ANDOLFO’s Gothic tale comes to an end. Lady Hellaine finds a love interest…or is this just a part of her machinations? Who are the ruthless “hunters,” and what are they tracking? And what’s their relationship with whatever lies in the abandoned mines?
Perhaps the most standout aspect of Mercy #3 is Adolfo’s ability to add depth to every character in a scene. Rarely does a character feel minor, or as if their narrative takes a backseat to anyone else’s. Everyone has a rich history; it is evident that Adolfo took the time to nurture who these characters are on a deeper scale. For example, Jonathan’s past comes to light while adding another layer of secrecy to the series as a whole. We gain insight into a forbidden love he lost, and the complex nature of the relationship he has with his sister. Who is this woman? Why does his sister dominate his every decision? All the while, themes of racism, classicism, and the multifaceted family dynamic comes into play.
On that notion, there likely isn’t a family dynamic as strange as that of Lady Hellaine, Mr. Goodwill, and Rory. Somehow, some way, Andolfo manages to play at the reader’s heartstrings, having us show empathy for the monsters of this strange tale. Rory’s piety has her convinced that Lady Hellaine is an angel, despite witnessing her true demonic nature, holding onto a desperate belief that she is her mother. She even goes so far as to put Mr. Goodwill in a grandfather role.
Despite its initial absurdity, there is almost a real family dynamic here. Well played, Andolfo, well played. Once again, Andolfo superbly ties the narrative to the rich themes in the story. I find myself going back to some scenes and questioning who, or what, are several characters’ real motives.
Since the day of the infamous mine accident, the town of Woodsburgh has become the focal point for something ominous. Every new scene seems to add revelations big and small. Bits of information and foreshadowing are sprinkled into every discussion. I find myself reading into everyone’s words, trying to decipher the intent of what was just said.
More light is shed on the Hunters introduced in Mercy #2, and again, I’m conflicted about their motivations and their true nature. They may hunt these monsters, or Pods, as they refer to them, but by issue’s end, I question their role in everything. They have strange ties to Lady Swanson, but the relationship is uneasy at best. More questions, more mystery. Despite the ambiguity, I never felt as if the issue left me wanting; instead, I revel in trying to decipher what is going on.
With so much build-up for the potential reveals that will inevitably come, the issue infuses conflict into simple exchanges. The benefit of having characters that are so fleshed out is that it makes for insightful dialogue. The aforementioned dinner scene is a simple premise: Gregor Swanson invites Lady Hellaine to dinner. The catch? Lady Hellaine feeds on human flesh and literally can’t stomach anything else, with actual volatile effects. What results is a dinner party brimming with a “what’s gonna happen next” backdrop.
Andolfo is superb at imbuing her stories with rich themes. In this case, redemption, damnation, and the very nature of our beliefs come into play. One scene in particular in a church has a pastor citing, “Evil can hide even among the most innocent creatures of God.” I can’t help but read into that statement. On the outset of the series, it seemed evident who our protagonist and antagonist would be, but now I question who the true villain is, if any. For fear of entering spoiler territory, I’ll refrain from going into further detail, but I have some ideas.
Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy #3 is a thriller that checks all the proverbial boxes. A profound mystery that keeps readers guessing, deep character interactions, and it’s fraught with tension. As I finish the final page, I find myself going back to re-read the issue to pick apart the scenes. I’ll say one thing for Mercy #3: if you weren’t invested in the series before, you sure as hell are now.