If you ever wondered what it would be like if The Crow happened where Conan the Barbarian lived, pick up The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer, a revenge tale written by Sebastian A. Jones and illustrated by Peter Bergting. Twenty years in the making, A Sinner’s Prayer follows the story of “The Stranger” as he returns from the land of the dead to take seven souls in seven nights to avenge his own murder in the fantasy world of “Asunda.”
Returning to his home-town with partial memory loss, The Stranger hunts down members of his former gang who betrayed him as he was trying to retire towards a more honest and peaceful life with a wife and child. Now fuelled by the rage of his murdered family, he cuts a swath through his enemies but befriends an orphan girl who becomes his chance at redemption.
Asunda is a fully realized fantasy world with its own geographies, politics, religions, magic, and monsters and therefore, a vast source of a variety of potential story lines. While it’s fun to immerse yourself in such a complete world, it’s also intimidating when it’s completely new and has no familiar reference point. Even the great Joss Whedon had the same information-overload issue with the premiere episode of Firefly which no doubt handicapped its broadcast success. However, Jones does a decent job of hinting at the vastness of his world without cramming information into our peepholes to the point of brain-choking. He has made me aware there is a race called Silver Elves and another nation ruled by an Empress who are probably rather significant in other contexts but not to the story of The Stranger and therefore unnecessary to explain to finite detail which would’ve been too much for a casual reader or neophyte to the world of Asunda to handle.
To that end, it also helps that there are many familiar elements like elves, Mos-Eisley-like desert towns, The-Crow-like main character (including a crow that follows him out from hell), Spartacus-style orgies, ogres and trolls coming straight out of the Lord of the Rings trilogy special effects department, and what I think was a Minotaur. This might not bode well if they were cheap rehashes, but A Sinner’s Prayer felt more like a tribute to all those influences because they represent so many sources.
Jones’s dialogue reads easily despite the foreign vocabulary. There’s some wit without accidentally sounding modern. The inner monologues are where he flourishes the poetry and reads like a fantasy novel book instead of a comic book which at times sounds forced but ultimately are well laid out to match the artwork so I didn’t mind it.
Bergting’s colors are very vivid without going too cartoony, a very delicate balance that results in some really terrific panels of artwork. The flip-side of embracing environmental lighting however is that I lost track of who was who sometimes without that comic book aspect of simplified character-identification by color coding. Also, there’s a wealth of close up shots cut off by panel lines that further hinder easy character recognition, but I understand that that’s for narrative efficiency. That being said, there are also some shots I wouldn’t mind making my new desktop background or blowing up to hang on my wall, including that very first or second page of the whole book, the full shot of the cave and the glowing boatman carrying The Stranger back to the world of the living.
If you’re a fan of this site, then most likely you grew up with all the same influences as Sebastian A. Jones which is why The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer will strike you as comfortable and familiar, or in the best case, the coolest parts of everything you ever liked cohesively combined into a single graphic novel. Unfortunately, for the more jaded fans like myself, it may seem a bit predictable as a result, but the artwork and the story combined will nonetheless be a welcomed albeit temporary escape from reality. If you’d like to support the publishing of this title, you can visit their Kickstarter.