Friday, 9 October 2015

Review: Alterna AnniverSERIES The Chair

Writer: Peter Simeti
Art: Peter Simeti & Kevin Christensen
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Released: October 7th 2015

Today I've been looking at the AnniverSERIES edition of 'The Chair' from Alterna comics. The AnniverSERIES is celebrating a decade of publishing for Alterna, which when you think about is a pretty massive achievement. I've mentioned before that my education in comics started with Marvel and DC, so discovering that there has been whole worlds of quality independent comics, hiding just behind the veil for so long, is testament to the amazing opportunities for discovery that the medium provides.

Though I'm relatively knew to the world, I'm no stranger to furore surrounding The Chair. Having followed Alterna Comics on Twitter for some time, I did dip my toes in the pool of understanding from time to time from reading various tweets and following links, though this is the first time I've read it fully. I wasn't disappointed.

The Chair follows the story of Richard Sullivan, an innocent man wrongly sent to death row. This isn't a tale of supernatural horror, the main character isn't stalked by some beast from another dimension. This is a tale of authoritarian brutality, the horrific cruelty that we as a species are capable of. As the tag line says "on death row, the only monster is man". That's part of its appeal, that it doesn't resort to classic archetypes, but rather exposes the lack of humanity that humans can have. 

Peter Simeti is the founder of Alterna Comics, and has had experience with about every job going in the business. His wide breadth of experience shows in the writing here. The story builds at a good pace, layering up the suspense page by page. As should be expected with a story set in death row, the tone is suitably gritty. The speech drips with a near intensity that instills a sense of foreboding, that something terrible is coming to the protagonist Richard Sullivan. The splash page at the end is a cliffhanger that leaves you aching to know what's happening. Though Sullivan is a bitter character, understandably, he is written in a way that doesn't remove you're empathy or sympathy for him. You find yourself keeping your fingers crossed for his safety, which is a futile practice, but you do it nonetheless.  

The artwork from Kevin Christensen and Simeti too, is an exercise in doom and gloom in keeping with the setting of the story. The prison is a mess of shadows and darkness, as much a ominous character in the story as the people trapped within it. The black and white moody panels add to the general murky darkness of the tale being told. On occasion you do feel that a touch of colour would add to the gory splash pages, but I understand the decision to keep the colour out of the story. This is a chance to immerse yourself in darkness after all. The art flows well throughout and you never struggle to understand what panel is coming next. 

Overall this is a brilliant read, it's easy to see what it's one of Alterna's best selling works. I found myself gripped to the very last page, then eager for more. The graphic novel will be out in December 2015, so I think a few rereads will be done before then. The story moves well and the pace never slips or trips and its general murkiness is well matched by the artwork.
I've learnt my lessons recently not to be pigeonholed into one genre, or limit myself to publishers. There's a vast universe of amazing work out there and 'The Chair' is a good place tot start a journey of discovery. If you're looking for something different than the standard horror archetype, or trying to branch out into something new. I implore you to give this a try, you won't be let down. 
I'm not going to belittle this work by giving it an overall rating, it's simply fantastic. It is much more to me than 30 pages of comics fun. To me it is the totem for my journey of comic freedom. So let me just say, wonderful. 

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