"No Mercy #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Alex de Campi
Illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil
2015, 32 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on April 1st, 2015
I have not traveled to another country in my lifetime, but I know enough that if and when I do, I'll tell everyone I'm from Canada. Americans can be seen as ignorant and privileged, and that's mostly true. It is in the case of No Mercy where a group of teens head down to a Central American village to help build schools...and never came back. Something horrible happens to them. The details of this aren't immediately known. We're just given a brief glimpse of a Facebook photo with heartfelt comments sharing prayers and condolences. How does tragedy befall these kids?
That right there is the beauty of No Mercy. Writer Alex de Campi lets you know right off the bat that these kids are doomed with a bombshell like that photo. That's on the second page. Most of the issue is then spent getting these kids into position to experience something horrible. It's like the first twenty minutes of a horror movie, most likely one of the Final Destination films, except you know, really good. (That's not entirely fair to the Final Destination movies as they're not that bad.)
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Everything the teenagers come into contact with is potentially fatal. Do they eat some bad churros? Is something going to go wrong with the shady bus they're riding in? What's up with that creepy guy in the business suit? Wow, those roads up the mountain look really narrow. Then it happens. It's not a spoiler if you've read anything about this comic. The bus goes off a cliff. Here's the thing though: That's just the beginning. Remember, this is the first issue!
Unlike most horror movies, there is no one in this cast that I'm rooting for. They're all awful people. I was torn on this at first because I hate seeing stories where the characters are nothing more than cannon fodder, but No Mercy is definitely the exception to the rule. These are the kind of people that you see on a day-to-day basis that annoy the living crap out of you. De Campi has created very real and very hateable characters. I mean, one of them speaks almost entirely in emojis! AARRRGHH!! Knowing that they're all destined to fly off a cliff makes reading and re-reading this comic so much fun.
Carla Speed McNeil's artwork is a great complement to the story. She brings these characters to life, making them instantly realistic. Yes, I have seen a douchebag white kid wearing a reggae shirt and bragging about how cultured he is. Where she really excels are the facial expressions on each character. McNeil captures the oblivious and entitled look often seen on Millennials. It's everywhere in No Mercy. This is a fantastic juxtaposition to the nun who is serving as a guide to the kids on this trip. She's very street smart and knows how to work with these Americans while also not calling them all idiots.
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There are two double-page spreads in this issue that really stand out. The first is the aforementioned Facebook photo, which works so well. McNeil managed to cram all of the main characters into the picture, plus putting some nice thumbnails to the side as “ads” highlighting each of the creators. The second spread comes with the bus going off the cliff, and damn is that beautiful. It's presented without a single piece of text, not even sound effects. The bus is entirely in the air and upside down, with smoke trailing off the front as it plummets down a chasm.
No Mercy puts a group of spoiled and annoying pre-college kids on a collision course with doom and never looks back. You know that they're heading towards something horrible, and the cliff is just the first step. Let this serve as a lesson to us all that if you're stranded in an unknown place, look to survive first. If your initial thought is to update Instagram, you deserve to be eaten by coyotes or whatever else lurks in the darkness.