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Ask For Mercy Vol. 1
Dark Horse Comics

Comic Books

‘Ask for Mercy’ Vol. 1 review

Ask for Mercy puts a fun fantasy spin on history, presented in gorgeously surreal artwork.

If there’s one thing to take away from history, it’s that during times of war, humanity can show their monstrous side. While there’s been countless media that has treated this with utmost seriousness, others take artistic license with certain periods of history through a pulpy fashion, like the depiction of Nazis throughout the Indiana Jones movies. In the case of the ComiXology Original, Ask for Mercy, it somewhat falls into the latter. Beginning digital publication back in 2018, the series by Richard Starkings and Abigail Jill Harding gets the Dark Horse treatment with a collected edition that covers the first two volumes. 

The story begins in 2018, where Mercy is struggling as a real estate agent while living in a shed. However, her life turns around when she is snatched from her own time to join a team of monster hunters who are actually monsters themselves, and together they travel back to 1942 to face a pantheon of hideous creatures summoned to our world, known as the Kroach. 

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Whilst you have Heinrich Himmler as an antagonist in the story, the artistic license is pretty obvious, in that some of the Nazis are literal monsters. In fact, the whole Nazi subplot is something that could have been lifted from pulp stories, as they search for the Spear of Destiny, a MacGuffin that has been used at numerous times, including the pages of DC Comics. In terms of the world-building of the monsters, there are pages where the info drops just happen, so it does take some time getting used to the lore. 

Functioning more as an action series, it can move at a quick pace, but whenever the story slows down, it allows us to know more about the characters. Whilst there is some mystery going on with Mercy herself, she is also your gateway into this world of time-traveling hijinks with a ragtag team of monsters, who may have a banter that bounces off one another, but each of them seem to be victims of war in a way that plays into each story arc. In fact, the one-shot issue “Ask for Budgie” is the standout issue in this collection, taking a break from the main narrative and doing a character study of the oddly adorable shape-shifting Budgie, trying to achieve the most mundane things in the present world, like shopping. 

'Ask for Mercy' Vol. 1 review

Credit: Dark Horse

Following the fight with the Nazis, the story shifts to 1876 during the Indian Wars where Mercy and her band of monsters must stop another monstrous threat interfering with the lives of the people of the Black Hills and the American soldiers who are intent on driving them out. Starkings shows respect towards the Native Americans, whilst presenting the historical horror of American soldiers mistreating them, even with the fantasy twist in which the villain is driven by revenge and is determined to rewrite history. 

Whether it is the present day, World War II or 19th century America, artist Abigail Jill Harding makes every period look otherworldly and stunning with vibrant colors. With every page, you are almost getting something new, from the variety of panel layouts, the action sequences that experiment with collage work. Harding balances the painterly environments with surreal monsters that always have peculiar bone structures, and even well-worn monsters like werewolves are uniquely designed. Particularly in the second arc, where body horror and present-day lab horror become recurring themes, you are hoping that whatever future book the artist will do lean heavily into that genre.

Ask For Mercy Vol. 1
‘Ask for Mercy’ Vol. 1 review
Ask for Mercy Vol. 1
Although the world-building can be heavy-handed, Ask for Mercy puts a fun fantasy spin on history, presented in gorgeously surreal artwork.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Abigail Jill Harding's art is painterly and monster-infested in all the best ways.
The "Ask for Budgie" one-shot.
Starkings balances the fun with the seriousness with thei historical periods...
...though the fantasy world-building can be dense and might be hard to follow for some readers.
8
Great
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