“Sons of the Devil” #1 is the sort of comic where the less you know about it beforehand, the better. There are plenty of interviews with creators Brian Buccellato and Toni Infante that detail the basic thrust behind the series, information that puts the events of this first comic into an interesting light. However, if you just begin your experience by reading “Sons of the Devil” #1 (and this review will avoid material not contained within this first issue), what you’ll find is a twisty, creepy little comic that offers up just enough questions to make you want to come back for more.
Buccellato sets up the world of “Sons of the Devil” well. After a four-page introduction set in the past and involving a violent attempt to spirit a child away from a seemingly dangerous situation, we meet Travis, a mechanic at an auto body shop in Venice Beach, California. Buccellato paints a vivid picture of his protagonist; Travis is a man who will show up late for work in an effort to help a lost child get home but is just as likely to explode in rage over a rebuke from his boss. Travis’ tender side is balanced out by one that holds grudges and often simmers in anger. Buccellato’s creation has just the right mixture of flaws and strengths that you can hope that he does well even while not wanting to get too close to him.
At the same time, Buccellato sets up the central mystery of “Sons of the Devil.” After seeing Travis’s mismatched eyes, we start seeing photos of someone else with the same discoloration, as well as mysterious figures starting to circle in. We also start getting hints about Travis’ childhood, a bad ending to his adoptive family and an unresolved anger between him and his brother. These different elements are the big hooks of “Sons of the Devil” #1 and, happily, they’re enough to make you want to read #2. Some advanced PR compared “Sons of the Devil” to the HBO show “True Detective” and I can see why people would make that connection; there’s an air of unease that lies over “Sons of the Devil” that made “True Detective” work so well. This is a moody, dark series that is easily some of Buccellato’s best writing to date.
It doesn’t hurt that Infante’s art looks good here. There’s a jagged, sharp edge to Infante’s figures and — with the dark purples and grays of the opening sequence — a wonderful sense of gloom. None of Infante’s characters have soft features, and that overall look brings a slightly dangerous look to the proceedings. It’s a good match to Buccellato’s script in that regard, the two working in concert to truly set the scene.
The scene set in the auto body shop is the one that probably grabbed my attention the most. On its surface, it sounds mild — an altercation between Travis and his boss — but, in Infante’s hands, it feels much more dangerous. After seeing Travis so gentle with the missing child, Infante shifts the page from quiet to rage-filled in a matter of panels. The head butt is in a single, horizontal, jagged panel but there’s so much force in that moment that it might make you jump. It’s at that point where you suddenly realize that Travis is more dangerous than your initial impression might have led you, and Infante sells it through the sheer power displayed in that solitary image.
“Sons of the Devil” #1 kicks the series off to a good start; again, the less you know about this comic going into it, the better. Devoid of any advance information about where “Sons of the Devil” is headed, this is an intriguing first issue that should bring readers back for more. And if you do know more about the overall path of the series? Well, I suspect it will just draw you in even further. All in all, a good job.