Set during the Spanish Inquisition, Luciano Saracino and Ariel Olivetti’s “Brutal Nature” #1 takes a beautiful but fairly straightforward oppressors-vs.-victims approach. Olivetti’s always-gorgeous visuals are the ideal choice for the scenic setting of Saracino’s story, but it’s a story that relies on too many oft-used motifs, which get a little too redundant. As is fair to expect, the first issue is mostly setup.
To start, though, the reader’s breath will be taken away as soon as they open the issue, as they’re treated to Olivetti’s stunningly photorealistic rendering of a pristine Amazon rainforest, the main setting for Saracino’s opening. Saracino’s poetic narration further paints a tranquil setting, but one that’s interrupted by an intrusive, albeit well-placed sound effect by letterer Chris Mowry. A turn of the page highlights another of Olivetti’s strengths: beautifully textured characters and backgrounds, as witnessed by the issue’s would-be victim and her pursuers.
While the story’s strong points are immediately obvious, its weaker ones also come into play before long. Saracino’s Spanish soldiers play out fairly flat as the typical, intolerant, ugly invaders of an idyllic land, while their prey is a young woman who all-too-heavily professes her belief in a spirit presence that will save her. As designed and rendered by Olivetti, it’s a very impressive and imposing spirit presence indeed, as well as a bit of a surprise when the true persona of the young woman’s savior is revealed.
By this point, though, Saracino’s flat dialogue proves to be a lot less engaging than his graceful narration. The exchange between hunter and hunted grinds through its inflated bluster, and the dynamic between villain and victim is already established by Saracino without the need for additional conversation. The script calls for the bad guys to run for their lives, and this is where Olivetti shows a rare weakness as well, as his fleeing characters look a little awkward.
The remainder of the issue continues the same posturing by the members of the Inquisition, but Saracino provides a little bit of development for the series’ presumed protagonist. A traumatic occurrence gives way to a somewhat-puzzling walkabout-type journey, which wraps up the issue on an odd and sudden note, though Olivetti continues to amaze throughout.
Overall, Olivetti carries the issue with continuously striking visuals of nature, but the magnificence of his art is significantly offset by a story that doesn’t have much to offer. “Brutal Nature” #1 is an easy sell to readers looking for something beautiful to look at, but those wanting a little more substance might find this a little tougher to take.