"Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare #4" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by ComixTribe
Written by Tyler James and John Lees
Illustrated by Alex Cormack
2015, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 2nd, 2015
Swanstown now belongs to the Oxymoron. After his heinous actions in the previous issue, riots are popping up all over the city. People dressed in the familiar black-and-white makeup are rampaging through the streets. The police are doing everything they can to quell this revolution, but they're stretched thin and are proving ineffective. Detective Mary Clark, perhaps the only person that could stop this madness, has been missing for one month.
The one shining light of hope in all of this chaos is Deborah, Mary's bright-eyed rookie partner. Despite the odds stacked so high against her, she still manages to hold her head high, literally in some cases. There's a terrific panel early in this issue where she brings a woman in shock out of a diner that has been torn to shreds. The police suspect that landmines might be inside, but that doesn't stop Deborah. She marches right in and comforts this woman who is holding what's left of her husband (which isn't much) before walking her out of the building to safety. The panel in question has Deborah looking up with hope and confidence. Sure, today looks bleak and this victim's life will never be the same, but they're both going to live to see tomorrow...right?
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With Mary gone, the Oxymoron turns his attention to her partner, pulling Deborah into his web of anarchy. Of course, Mary isn't really gone. The book leads to a riveting climactic final battle between Mary and the Oxymoron drenched in blood. The full scope of the title character's plan for his rival is laid out. He's pushed her through so much pain in an effort to make her a hero that would be worthy of him. It's a twisted version of what Professor Zoom was up to against The Flash. Through tragedy, one can become a better hero.
The messed up thing about this is that in a demented way, the Oxymoron is right. Mary is pushed to the precipice. She's faced with a tipping point in her life. She can stay on the side of the angels and bring this monster to justice or she can lean further towards the dark side, embracing it fully. This is the moment that decides if she becomes a hero or a villain. The Oxymoron illustrates this in a brilliant piece of dialogue just after Mary unmasks him (which you see from his perspective, so you don't actually get a look at his face). He says, “That's the magic, though, isn't it? At the end of the day, there's very little that sets me apart from any of you.” Let that float around your brain for a minute. Are we all just one bad day away from becoming a monster?
There is a desperation in Mary's eyes throughout these scenes. Artist Alex Cormack showcases how strung out she's become in just that portion of her face. There's a hardness there that has been built up over exponentially worse personal tragedy. Her life lies in ruins and all she may have left is sweet revenge. This plays into the uncertainty of which direction Mary will fall.
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The lengths that Mary goes are pretty extreme. Let's just say that Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare is not for the squeamish. There are some pretty gruesome scenes and they are far from your run-of-the-mill violence. This isn't a dismemberment or a stabbing. This is a chisel to the knee or a nail to the gums. It's torture in the purest sense of the word. Scenes in this comic will make you cringe. Cormack illustrated this beautifully, showing you some of this right up close while others are just off panel, allowing your brain to fill in the gruesome details. What is even more effective are the reaction shots of the characters involved. Mary is in a rage. The Oxymoron is screaming in pain. Deborah looks on in shock.
The panels themselves are shaken up over the violence as well. When you get into one of these scenes, the panels become a bit unglued. Instead of fitting in with perfect right angles, they're skewed. It's as if the chaos on the page has affected the very format of the comic. It's a very nice touch.
Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare is a brutal yet thought-provoking look at the relationship between a hero and a villain and what makes up each side of that coin. It pulls no punches with its actions, nor does it apologize for them. The creative team has pushed the story elements to the limits and then some, offering a pulse-pounding read that you cannot put down. This will be a book that you will read in one sitting once it's collected in a trade paperback.