“Revelations,” a six-issue mini-series originally published by Dark Horse Comics in 2005 is being re-printed as a serial by BOOM! Studios thanks to writer Paul Jenkins’ exclusive deal with the publisher. Paul Jenkins and artist Humberto Ramos’ six-issue mini-series about a Scotland Yard detective brought in to take a look at the suspicious death of a Cardinal at the Vatican, has a nice enough set up, but it does feel a bit too familiar — and not because it’s been previously published. It’s hard to tell whether it also felt this way nearly ten years ago when it was first published, or not.
Jenkins’ story of religious corruption, secrecy, the skeptical detective and murder is a bit paint-by-numbers, but the writing is crisp and enjoyable, even after ten years. While the concept thus far feels relatively seen-it-all-before, there’s nothing wrong with a simple tale of murder and corruption, executed well. The question will be (for those who have not already read the series) in how well Jenkins and Ramos execute the tale. So far, there’s promise as Jenkins is a strong writer overall and his Detective Charlie Northern is a likable curmudgeon who we want to see win the day. Jenkins also adds in some smart details as Northern investigates the crime scene that imply a smart and well-considered story to come, but it’s just hard to tell based on this first issue whether the book has anywhere new to go for readers.
As ever, Ramos’ strengths lie in his wonderful cartoonish character design. His faces are full of movement and he conveys emotion in his characters effortlessly. Ramos uses a pencil shading technique in this book that’s unusual in comics and has a soft warm quality to it. On the whole, it’s effective and gives the book a distinctive look, however there are places where the coloring and general darkness of the scenes overwhelm the style. There are several scenes, including the opening, that take place in the dark and the rain, and while many of those pages are objectively beautiful, they are also pretty difficult to understand from a storytelling perspective. You really have to work to see what’s going on. They are too dark generally, and the rain easily dominates the pages, drawing attention away from the characters and actions. Again, the overall net effect is actually quite pretty, but clarity is a problem. Ramos tries to correct this problem a few times by putting a panel border around important things readers need to see — like a gun in a character’s hand, or two characters standing in a courtyard — and while it does draw attention to those things, it does so in an awkward and distracting way.
As mentioned, the colors by Leonardo Olea and Edgar Delgado trend a bit dark and easily overwhelm Ramos’s pencils, but the scenes are supposed to be murky and dark, so I’m hesitant to say it’s a mistake. While Olea and Delgado ideally would have lightened things up a little for clarity’s sake, the misfire feels more in the original pencils, that they should have strived for lucidity above fussy, if cool details, like individual drops of rain and beautiful patterns created on the ground by said rain.
On the whole, the set up here for the mini-series is nice, and Ramos’s unique visuals combined with Jenkins capable writing are more than enough to warrant a look. However, in this first issue at least, “Revelations” is missing some deeper layers or exceptional execution that might make it work more effectively in 2014 than in 2005.