Damnation: Ultimate Edition, written by Rees Finlay and illustrated by Jonny Pearson, is a horror/fantasy comic that follows an unnamed narrator. Based on Finlay’s own personal struggles with mental health, the story ventures deep into the crevices of the narrator’s thoughts and finds his own personal hell. While reading about a nihilistic (or at the very least pessimistic) guy may seem like a tedious task, Damnation: Ultimate Edition is a fun and definitely interesting read.
Before I go any further though, let me start out with saying that I am a big fan of Finlay. Not only does he know how to tell a story, but he also knows how to do it in such a dynamic and captivating way. I also really love Pearson’s illustrations. There is a rough quality to them that just add to the vulnerability the narrator feels.
After the narrator walks the streets at night, reflecting on his mistrust of the government and just life, he takes a small red and white pill. This action plunges the readers into the bulk of the story as his skin melts away and falls deep into the tresses of his mind.There he encounters faceless women who drown him, and a Frankenstein’s-Monster-esque version of himself. The combination of whatever the hell (pun intended) that pill was and his cynicism cause him to have a bad drug trip/ dream in which he discovers that he is doomed to live a life of fear alone. Like damn (pun intended again… sorry), what was in that pill? While it could be medication to suppress his dark thoughts, it also serves as a catalyst for his fears. Its effects are very Matrix-like in that it leads to his own awakening, as he becomes even more self-aware of his situation.
The one thing I do wish was that there was just more weirdness going on. Maybe that’s just my art school education speaking, but I believe that if you’re going to delve into the surreal, you should really push the limits until normal human logic doesn’t apply to the world anymore. There are some scenes where this begins to happen. I don’t want to give away huge spoilers, but towards the end, there is a scene where the panels are drawn in a disorienting manner. Despite the chaos of the layout, it perfectly encapsulates the anarchy of dreams. While I recognize it is difficult to create pandemonium in a static 2d medium, parts of me wish that there were just some random crazy stuff thrown in there; things that are unrelated to the plot, but still a part of the narrator’s mind. Like I’m thinking along the lines of Mulholland Drive by David Lynch or even Last Year at Marienbad by Alain Resnais. Crazy art school tangent aside, not only would the comic be on a whole new fantastical level, but the readers would get a chance to see other thoughts and memories of the narrator transformed into a physical presence, allowing us to possibly gain a deeper understanding of why this guy feels so damned.
I really like this comic. It has a little bit of everything: some head-tilting moments, some jokes, some noir themes, some mind-exploding thoughts about life… Even though it is mostly a horror, it has a range that is appealing to a large audience. And let me clarify for those of you who have trepidation about horror stuff: this comic is not scary as in “Yikes, that’s gory and everyone is dying and there is so much blood”. Yes, there is some gore, but you’ll be fine. This comic is scary because it brings to light the thing we fear the most: ourselves. You should definitely check out Damnation: Ultimate Edition if you haven’t yet, but maybe not right before you go to sleep.
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