Thursday, September 20, 2007

Occasional Reviews - Penance: Relentless

Penance: Relentless
Writer: Paul Jenkins

Artist: Paul Gulacy

Penance: Relentless is really, really emo. It has to be.

The titular character (if you would excuse the expression) of the series, Robbie Baldwin, has rings on his nipples. And watches Marquis DeSade DVDs.

Robbie Baldwin.

Robbie Baldwin!

Robbie Baldwin, formerly Speedball, now Penance, is batshit insane. He wears an iron maiden (dude! Iron Maiden!) as a costume and is, in the parlance of his generation, a "cutter."

He is wracked with guilt over the Stamford Disaster, the accident that he inadvertently helped cause (unless you believe Squirrel Girl & Dan Slott), and now spends his hours reciting seemingly endless numbers and glowering in a black hoodie.

He was originally a rather crappy member of the Thunderbolts, due mostly to the fact that he is batshit insane, but recently takes a turn for the "better," scares the terrorists, gets the codes, and tells his supervisor Norman Osborne to piss off.

What is Robbie's plan?

When will the pain stop and the healing begin?

This is a decent little comic that needs to give me more information as to where it is heading in order for me to really get a sense of it. I've got some good starts with background on Robbie's mental disorders, the action with the Thunderbolts, and Robbie/Penance's new found defiance of his authorities.

Paul Gulacy's art lends the book and the character a very dynamic and edgy quality that truly signifies the "childhood's end" of this particular comic book character. Gulacy's Penance is a haunting figure with a very real face that gives what could easily be a ridiculous character (Speedball with nipple rings) a deep sense of gravity.

My own quibble with the art is that I don't think Gulacy's art lends itself (or really needs) color-holds. The strength of his work is in the lines themselves -- to give them the same treatment as, say, an Ed Benes or Jim Lee book and go crazy with the holds and other color "tricks" distracts from the purity of his design.


  1. Points for the Iron Maiden ref. :D

    I'm all about the "WHEN?", but for different reasons...

    Also, I like cheese.

  2. To clarify for the uninitiated (me) what is a color hold?

  3. A color hold is when they take the black inked line art and use Photoshop (or somesuch computer coloring program)to change that color from black to, say, skin-color or a glowy green. It is used to make those laser lines in a battle scene more realistic and make shading and lines on faces & bodies more "3-D". So instead of a black outline, you have the line in a different color.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I....I can't understand why anyone would buy this comic, though I am willing to accept "the artist" as an acceptable answer. Penance is...horribly stupid. I am trying to think of better terms to phrase it in, but I just can't even think of how. Emo hardly begins to describe it, from what I've seen. It is like some "square" went into a Hot Topic & decided that is what "edgy" kids were into.

  6. I'd have to agree--Penance is almost the ultimate parody of current comics trends, someone saying, "Hey! Let's turn Speedball grim and gritty, and give him scars and an S&M theme!"

    (I say almost because turning Bucky into a cyborg assassin still seems to me to be the perfect example of how comics are tearing apart their past.)

  7. Penance = Lobo!

    & while I totally oppose Bucky's resurrection across all platforms, saying "cyborg assassin" is a little dishonest. True, technically, but given the genre not as objectionable as it sounds. Plus, as long as Cap stays dead, I'm much more okay with it.

  8. AGH! Nipple rings.
    Hulk smash.
    OK, make Robbie dark and angry... but don't give him nipple rings.
    No, no, no.
    Steve Ditko and Squirrel Girl are suing.

  9. I'm very happy comic writers are finally starting to tear apart comics' past. There's too much reverence for ideas that weren't really that good in the first place. I'm one of the only Speedball fans on the planet, I bought all 10 issues when they first came out, and I only liked him because he was so stupid. I rather like this new fetish-y character; it gives a cheesy character some much needed depth. It gives him some actual conflict and I love the idea of him constantly punishing himself for something that wasn't really even his fault in the first place. We need more Penance!

  10. When will the healing begin?

    When Warren Ellis leaves the book and Marvel says, "Oh, shit! We totally should have checked out his blog before we hired him!"