Comic Picks By The Glick

No Mercy vol. 2

June 22, 2016

Writer Alex De Campi and artist Carla Speed McNeil struck a near-perfect balance of awfulness and excitement in the first volume of this series.  There was always the chance that something could go wrong and that balance would be upset, but vol. 2 shows that these creators really know what they’re doing with this story of privileged American teens stuck in the (totally not a stand-in for Mexico) country of Mataguey.  Things start off with the creators showing that they know how to subvert your expectations as the majority of the surviving teens’ encounter with the drug traffickers goes in an unexpected direction.  This leads to some of our cast making it to the U.S. Embassy, others who wind up captured by the revolutionary army, and still more who go on to become captive of the traffickers, hook up with some drug-seeking British tourists, and get an eye plucked out by a bird of prey.  All of what these kids are forced to endure should’ve made for a thoroughly depressing read except that the energy and over-the-top tone let you know that things shouldn’t be taken entirely seriously here.  As a result, the rush to see how much worse things can get for our cast becomes thrilling rather than wearying.

Oh, and there’s also some delicious schadenfreude involving Charlene’s evil brother Chad.  That guy deserved everything that happened to him in this volume, and more.  Too bad that story thread has been closed off.  Or has it?  I didn’t see his body after all…

All of what I said applies to the first four issues in this new collection.  The fifth, a spotlight on Charlene and how her gender identity issues were “treated” at a teen residential treatment center, is an entirely different beast.  It still maintains the dramatic flair of what has come before, except that it’s pitched at a more grounded level as we see the horrific treatment that Charlene and other “problem” teen girls are subjected to.  This makes for a compelling read with the potential to ruin your day as you hope that De Campi was sensationalizing the events here and that real thing isn’t nearly as bad.  It’s a vain hope, I’m willing to bet.  As good as this issue is, it’s also at odds with the other ones collected in this volume.  If “No Mercy” was as popular as it deserved to be, this issue should’ve been spun off into its own miniseries where the creators could explore this subject at length, away from the enjoyably demented B-movie thrills this series traffics in.

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