Bliss #3 continues our pro-antagonists’ journeys down their own particular hearts of darkness with the past and present threatening to collide like two trains headed for each other.
Lethe’s ravens descend on the courthouse as Perry and Hera make their way to his cell. Time continues to shift as the past reveals a deadly plot, where Benton, high on the Bliss drug, finds himself ready to kill the most important person in his life…a story of escapes and reversals emerges throughout this issue. Breaking Bad meets Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in an urban fantasy unlike any you’ve ever seen.
Just when you think you’ve got someone figured out…
Bliss #3 takes a particularly dark turn in a story that revolves around darkness. In a flashback to the past, it appears that the main pro-antagonist, Benton, who is on trial for his life in the present for his many misdeeds, looks like he crossed a particular line and murdered a beloved character.
This highlights a particular double-standard we allow in characters, one that was raised in Bliss #1. We’ll allow a wide breadth in their capacity for violence, so long as it’s towards characters we don’t have connections to or whose death we don’t find ethically or morally repugnant.
Steve Lewis’s taut writing subtly highlights that contradiction while also framing it in the context of greater themes: family, addiction and the lengths — and costs — some will go and pay for the ones they love. I also assume, foreshadowing. When a character says “I’m a fit and fighting 35,” I imagine Lewis is saying more about what they’ll end up doing than how old they are.
Whether or not redemption figures into that equation remains to be seen. As one character states, “We’ve all earned a few crows.”
This issue blows by quickly but leaves behind a residual ickiness that seems by design. It’s very much in step with Benton’s descent into his growing dependence on the titular memory-erasing drug that assuages his guilt at his actions
This is the aftermath of the Faustian bargain he made to save his son, Perry’s life. The same son who is advocating for mercy for his father’s life and the same son whose mother now must save.
Caitlin Yarsky’s expressive, haunting art, especially her use of colors, is amazing. Her horrific rendering of a magistrate murdered by crows, framed almost peripherally, is a bloody scene not soon forgotten.
Even that image can’t hold a candle to the expressive shock, acceptance and resolve in a powerful three-panel sequence involving Benton’s wife realizing the real cost of her husband’s deal with the devil(s).
Yarsky’s choices are also quite clever. I quite liked the segment where a car trip works as both exposition as well as an acting map to their destination; the little convertible following a dotted path ala the plane in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
As it’s told, the story continues down a downward spiral — literally — as the stakes get closer and closer to home and both timelines run at each other at full speed like trains on a collision course.
Which is wholly appropriate given the story: half of it about recounting the other half that’s already been written. The anticipation to see them entwine is intoxicating.
Bliss #3 released Sept. 26 by Image Comics, written by Sean Lewis, art by Caitlin Yarsky.