“Purgatori” #1 falls into the trap of employing too many concepts — stereotypical and otherwise — and not fully committing to any of them for the sake of story. Instead, it chooses instead to present shock as substance enough for adventure. Nothing in “Purgatori” #1 presents an argument that any of the characters should be liked or worthy of attention, as writer Aaron Gillespie and artist Javier Garcia Miranda pile tired notions on top of a lack of imaginative execution.
The opening page is shown through the struggling slits of the titular character’s eyes as she gains consciousness, but quickly after the page flip, Purgatori is less of a point of view character and more an object to be tormented. That torment occurs in the city of Dis in Hell, but Dis is less a city than a cave and Hell is awfully short on fire, brimstone, or even other suffering souls for background. Miranda piles a torture cart with items that would be used in the corporeal world, such as a drill, meat cleaver and a household pair of scissors, hardly the tools of sadism for a realm built on pain and suffering. Right off the bat, Hell is lacking, and needs a story boost that it unfortunately never receives. Instead of setting a foundation to build on, it seems as though Gillespie pours bad things all over Purgatori and decides to see what happens.
Blue-skinned Hel and stereotypically red and horned Lucifer Morningstar (who both look more like escapees from a bondage convention than other-dimensional demons) are crafted in the heroic ideal: muscular and picturesque, not grotesque or unpleasant. Throw them in X-Men uniforms and you’d never realize they’re lords of Hell. Miranda’s dynamic poses for the characters are almost lost in the tilted panels, which appear to be tilted solely for angst, but instead just muddle the storytelling. For every decent character drawing Miranda delivers, there is a lackluster composition or drawings that are more apt to have come from a sketchbook, such as when poor victim Clem is attacked by Purgatori and his face extends to abnormal proportions. Miranda’s at his best with the characters of Gorum and Cremator, showing a knack for supernatural super beings as opposed to deranged, deformed, demonic horrors.
Gillespie spends most of “Purgatori” #1 piling on ideas that are intended to make the reader squirm, like torture, assault, rape, murder and vampirism. None of those pieces are crafted into a story, but simply jam together to form a diluted, uninteresting and unmemorable backstory. The debut issue comes across as a perverted pipe dream or a rejected script to a horror movie that treads a little too closely to being a porno. Unless that’s your preference, there isn’t much to like and certainly not enough story to enjoy, let alone remember. “Purgatori” #1 features a twisted soul cast out of Hell, but does nothing to incite the readership to care.