We've heard the threat before: "I'm going to rip off your head and shit down your neck." It's a paraphrase of a line from Full Metal Jacket, and it's a great line, one that's been repeated so many times it's become a cliche. However, in Michael Avon Oeming's The Victories #1, a nasty-ass jackal-man named the Jackal says it, and then actually does it.
Oeming does not waste any time with this book – the first thing that happens after a brief scene-setting narration is the Jackal confronting a judge and his wife, interrupting their romantic horse and buggy ride by killing the driver. He's got guns strapped to his back, a spiked thing over his crotch and a heart tattoo that reads "MOTHER FUCKER." Right off the bat, this ain't a normal superhero story.
The Jackal is slobbery, snotty, vicious and yet self-righteous, as we find out the judge is corrupt. He tries to play noble and spare his wife, but the Jackal insists she watch the gruesome act, as she's complicit with her silent denial of her husband's briberies. It's not until he's almost finished with his strident lecture to her, telling her to divest herself of her ill-gotten gains and maybe he'll spare her life, that a wisecracking superhero named Faustus (of the superhero team The Victories) bounds onto the scene, and it's an effectively jarring attempted switch in tone. I say 'attempted' because Faustus is too late to stop a grisly murder, so all of his snark about bad puns, copyrighted moves and prison rape makes him come off as a self-absorbed glory-whore asshole, even though he's trying to save the woman.
This is no accident on Oeming's part, though – after the fight, after the Jackal declares he's going to turn Faustus into the killer he's meant to be, the man behind the mask is drowning himself in booze, raking himself over the coals for that behavior and for being too late, but trying to put it all out of his mind to do better tomorrow. Writing page after page of "why am I like this?" This could have just been some run-of-the-mill look-how-edgy-mom kind of story that's all proud of itself for using cusswords and gore, but there's soemthing really psychologically messed up happening in this book, and it's got me hooked.
Oeming's art is very stylized and angular, but it's also very kinetic even with its dark shadows. The Jackal is actually scary with his hyena's grin and dog slobber (although rest assured, the actual neck-shitting is silhouetted and small – no puckering anus shots, if you were worried). The fight with Faustus is packed full of motion, and then the news feed telling us this world is crappy and then the descent into self-flagellation is a very interesting turn.
The Victories is a five issue minieseries. Whethar it's going to focus on a different "Victory" each issue, or follow the story between Faustus and the Jackal, I don't know. But it starts off pretty darn solid, and certainly very gruesome and rough-edged. If that's your thing, so might The Victories be.