Fans of the Victorian era rarely get widely publicized comics featuring fineries and social restrictions of the era. Luckily for us, Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy delights genre fans with a gothic supernatural tale that doesn’t skimp on period details. Fans of Penny Dreadful and the Parasol Protectorate literary series will highly enjoy this stylized gothic horror comic with plenty of corsets and corpses.
Every town has its devil. Woodsburgh is no exception. Supernatural entities known as the Strangers pick off lone townsfolk foolish enough to be out after curfew. Only Lady Swanson, the town’s no nonsense businesswoman, seems to be aware enough of them to fight them. Though the Strangers’ connection to her mine and her mysterious visions allude to more going on with Lady Swanson than meets the eye. When the beautiful Lady Hellaine arrives in town from Seattle, the two are drawn together in a supernatural mystery that threatens to consume the entire town.
Andolfo steers clear of the more common tropes of the genre. She establishes her Victorian era in the American west and doesn’t shy away from the real life horrors of the time. Child labor, neglect and abuses feature prominently in Rory’s character, a young orphan adopted by the monstrous and beautiful Lady Hellaine.
Andolfo’s work in establishing Rory’s background pays off in Issue #3. We see her willingly accepting of Lady Hellaine’s peculiar predilection for human flesh. The influence goes both ways: Issue #3 finds Hellaine contemplating the meaning of motherhood through Rory’s adoring gaze.
We also get a taste of the racism prevalent of the time, but with considerably less definition. Jonathan, hired hand of the Swanson family, wants only to be himself and help others. These noble traits are often curbed by reality in the form of sister Betsy, Woodsburgh’s top sex worker. Still, while the racism is heavily implied through flashbacks of meeting a mysterious woman, and his attraction to Lady Hellaine, it doubles as classism.
Perhaps more evident is the treatment of the implied Native American hunters, who’s warnings to Lady Swanson about the Strangers went unheeded at the mine. We aren’t given much background on them, other than they work with Lady Swanson under a strained alliance of necessity.
Fox, the understandably outraged leader of the group, provides key information on the beautiful blooms that sprout from the Stranger’s corpses. Still, Fox and her crew prove more than capable of dealing with Woodsburgh’s devils. I’m looking forward to learning more about her, and just how capable she is when she Hellaine comes for her guardian, Mr. Goodwill.
Andolfo’s artwork is beautiful, with soft lines that contrast the sharpness of defiant leading ladies. Vibrant colors and effects, by Mirka Andolfo and color assistant Gianluca Papi, add distortion and interest to the supernatural elements. Lettering assistant Fabio Amelia punches up the comic with interesting bubbles and sound effects that jump right out of them. The real scene stealers are Andolfo’s splash pages that balance horror and beauty terrifyingly well.