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Dante #1 Review by Max Mallet

Writers: Matt Hawkins & Jason Ning
Artist: Darick Robertson
Colorist: Diego Rodriguez
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image

“I have something to confess… sometimes I like to kill people.”

Dante #1 is a grizzled one-shot that pays homage to a number of other comics on a blood-soaked journey.  At its core, its a revenge and redemption story.  While this is a well-worn path, Dante walks it while maintaining a unique identity.  Not an easy task among a sea of oversaturated revenge tales throughout modern comic lore.

Image Comics veteran Matt Hawkins (Lady Pendragon, VICE) and newcomer Jason Ning weave a dramatic tale that will make you laugh and shudder multiple times.  The dialogue pays pretty consistent respect to Frank Miller’s Sin City, walking the line between modernity and bleak noir.  At various times Dante himself echoes these prominent characters:

Deathstroke‘s affinity for slaughter: “I have something to confess… sometimes I like to kill people.”  This is the first line of the book, and instantly reels you in.

Rorschach‘s disdain for modernity: “I hate this *&$%ing place… it smells like stale beer, piss and failure.  Full of reprobates refusing to play the game: blend in with the rest of society.”  While our protagonist isn’t as blatantly political as Rorschach, his societal laments wreak of the divisive vigilante.

Batman‘s penchant for being two steps ahead: “Preparation is the soul of opportunity.”  The reason why Batman is able to outlast his vast rogue’s gallery is his intelligence, peak fitness and perhaps above all, his preparation.  While Bruce Wayne wouldn’t approve of Dante’s methods, they are both meticulous with their respective strategies.

Spider-Man‘s wit, even in the face of death: “Yeah, that’s a really %$#@& suit.”  Dante says this in response to a man who just asked him if he has any last words.  As he insults the goon, he lands a kick that any martial artist would be proud of.  While Spidey wouldn’t approve of Dante’s methods (and probably not his language), Dante does deliver some quips that can’t help but bring the wall crawler to mind.

Marv (Sin City)‘s gruff talk: “Proof of the kill.  Used to be they’d just take my word for it… but a man’s word means *%$# these days.”  Dante’s generally terse language, quickness to violence and soft spot for young women in precarious circumstances all mirror Sin City’s most brutal and tragic character.

Deadpool‘s wry, mature humor: “The price for sex in L.A. has plummeted.  %$#@ing economy hits everyone.”  This begs the question, “How does Dante know this?” and smacks of the Merc with the Mouth.

It takes a little while for Dante to wear the visage on the book’s cover, but the payoff is rewarding.  The mysticism behind his tattoos and the means by which he must remove them is a great story-driving tactic.  It’s hard to imagine that Dante doesn’t become its own series.  His journey is far from over at the end of the issue.

Throughout the story, Darick Robertson (Transmetropolitan, The Boys) creates modern, vivid artwork.  At times it’s a little too modern for the dialogue, but this doesn’t distract too much from the story.  Robetson is especially adept at capturing intense emotions like fear, sadness and rage.  Slight details like a furrowed brow subtly, but deftly, capture the story’s mood. Colorist Diego Rodriguez (Back to the Future) does a great job with difficult scenes that involve various lighting elements.

Verdict: Buy!  To date, this is the most satisfying read that I’ve reviewed for Talking Comics.  The story does have a tried-and-true formula and draws from various characters in mainstream comics.  However, the creative team crafts a unique blend of heartbreak, violence and redemption.  All things considered, Dante boasts fantastic dialogue, a clever storytelling device and crisp artwork.

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