The debate over superheroes killing is often reduced to simplicities in comics, relying simply on cliches like ‘killing is not heroic’ or ‘killing would lower the hero to the same level as the villain’ instead of offering intelligent, thoughtful debate. The root in acting as morality plays for children is no doubt to blame, but given the recent trend for content that skews a little older, the lack of maturity in the debate over killing stands out as one of the relic of the ‘comics are for kids’ mindset. “Absolution,” though, addresses the morality of heroes killing head on in its final issue with John Dusk arrested for the murders he has committed and his fellow superpowered officers and his girlfriend all wanting explanations.
Christos Gage tries his best to represent both sides of the issue here as John speaks with a Christian-themed fellow officer, Chris, who offers spiritual guidance. Both men are staunch believers in their moral codes, but remain respectful of one another, not allowing the debate to devolve into childish name calling, which is a refreshing change of pace from most debates of this nature in comics. What’s even more refreshing is that their discussion yields no tangible results, it exists only to demonstrate the views of the characters. There is no winner or loser, just differing viewpoints.
The actual dialogue between the two is well written, neither man spouting cliches. Even in his condemnation of John’s actions, Chris doesn’t talk down to him, he struggles to understand how his friend could do something so morally heinous in his eyes. On the other side, John wonders how his friend is able to not kill the criminals that John killed. To John, their deaths made the world better and, when confronted with the idea that he should feel remorse for killing pedophiles and murders, he responds, “Remorse? I’m glad I did it. I’d do it again. If you let me out, I’d pick right up where I left off.”
Aiding Gage to great effect is artist Roberto Viacava whose work has continually improved over the course of the series. The scenes in the interrogation room are his best work on this book as he uses shadows and the two-way mirror to great effect. He makes a simple discussion between two men into a visually interesting and captivating scene. His clean, almost plain style, catches you off guard when a character shows a strong emotion or violence happens, breaking the tone of the art and the world he’s created. Later in the issue, his art becomes a little more stilted and stiff, but he does continue the strong facial expressions for characters throughout.
The second half of the comic isn’t just a let down because of the art, as the writing falls short there as well. While the initial discussion between John and Chris is powerful and some of the best work I’ve read of Christos Gage, the complexity and reality of the situation is pushed aside for a far more simple and open-ended conclusion. Not entirely a failure, the final pages certainly lack the maturity and fearlessness of the opening pages. Unfortunately, those final impressions are what the reader is left with of “Absolution,” a book that came close to being great but settled for being good.