For better or worse, all roads end here. Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy #6 subverts expectations; whether you anticipated a dour close to the town of Woodsburgh’s final chapter or one last “hurrah” of redemption and heroism, I can guarantee you did not expect what the closing chapter has in store. Suffice to say, I was left with an overwhelming sense of ambivalence, but don’t let that deter you.
You see, therein lies the beauty of Mercy #6, and the series as a whole. The world is chaotic, multifaceted, complex, and challenging to label simplistically, and so are the people/characters that embody it. From the start, the Mercy series has eschewed the typical labels of “good” and “evil”, with that notion growing ever more complex with each issue. In line with the themes set forth thus far, the aptly titled “We’ll Stick Together to the End” doesn’t have a Hollywood ending or even an utterly tragic close; instead, we get a finish befitting the series.
It all comes to a head in this issue. Mercy #5 left off on a cliffhanger, literally and figuratively. With the revelation of the identity of the Devil of Woodsburgh revealed, all the cards are on the table. And true to form, the Devil’s past and future are intertwined with our supporting cast. It works well here, lending to a greater sense of drama and urgency as we feel both disgusted and empathetic for the creature.
On the one hand, it is a beast of prey, taking life to feed its hunger. On the other hand, it seeks revenge for losing Jonathan to Lady Hellaine. Despite the Devil’s outward appearance, very human emotions fuel its rage, so much so that the Devil tries to kill Rory and Gregor in a twisted form of an eye for an eye. But why would their deaths affect Lady Hellaine? Because throughout the series, semblances of humanity have shown through her angelic/demonic exterior. Andolfo uses every bit of conflict and action to reinforce themes already established in the series. There aren’t any wasted panels or filler, only conflict, and thematic action.
I expected the issue to end on a massive blowout of gore and bloodshed, and there is plenty of gore to scratch that sadistic itch, but the issue is paced in a more subdued manner. Surprisingly, “We’ll Stick Together to the End” is divided between three distinct points in time. Each time jump provides more insight into the repercussions of the past. There is a proper mix of frenetic highs and dramatic lows, each serving their purpose.
As the final chapter of this series comes to a close, it feels like a film outro with voiceovers taking us to the closing panel. I came to appreciate the charm of the approach, but the average reader might be looking for a more frantic pace. It should also go with saying, but it is being said nonetheless: the sixth and final chapter is not a point of entry for new readers. The emotional pull of the series and the character developments depend on being privy to what came before.
From the onset, the Mercy series places the proverbial microscope over the town of Woodsburgh and the characters within. Their lives intersecting in a horrific six degrees of separation permeating from death, deceit, and base urges. As impressive as the horror elements are in this series – and there are plenty – Mercy shines because of its character development. That aspect of the series is in full force in Mercy #6. The outcome of Mercy is highly unpredictable, but there was some writing on the wall. Not everyone would come out alive, but none of the deaths come off as shock value. Instead, it feels organic to the story at hand. But be warned, you might be hit in all the feels on this one.
A central crux of the series is the scrutiny of good vs. evil and what those oversimplified identifiers mean. If you’ve read any of AIPT’s previous Mercy reviews, you’d know that pinpointing a series protagonist proves difficult. That’s not to say that this is a bad thing, but each character is motivated for different reasons; some altruistic, other more selfish in nature. At no point is Lady Hellaine or Gloria acting as villainess or heroine, but as people moving towards a goal. Whether those motivations are inherently decent or awful is debatable. Despite the Devil of Woodsburgh moniker, by the series’ end, are any of the beings from another realm truly monsters? I’d argue that it’s difficult to label them as such. Granted, Mr. Goodwill turns out to be vile, to say the least, but even he is motivated by a past of love lost. What can be more human than that?
Visually speaking, Mercy #6 is a terrific blend of carnage and delicacy. Lady Hellaine and Mr. Goodwill’s transformations are grotesque in an excellent way. They’re a mix of limbs, twisted plant-like sinew, and eyeballs for days. Other pages are steeped in heavy shadows and shots that are purposely out of focus. The juxtaposition works to support the narrative. Some of the action sequences have a blur effect, reinforcing the sense of motion. It’s subtle but works in concert with Andolfo’s art (She pulls double-duty on the series) to seamlessly tell the story at hand.
Admittedly, Mercy #6 isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for the casual reader or the fan only interested in people wearing costumes. However, this issue delivers on the promise of rich themes and characters you can’t help but invest in. A series is only as good as its finish. If that holds true, then Mercy #6 and the entirety of the series is a success.