(IDW Publishing, 2014)
Created by Joe Halpin Sr. and Joe Halpin Jr.
Written by Joe Halpin Sr.
Pencils and Inks by Juanfrancisco Moyano
Assistant Inker: D.F. Martin
Colorist: Joe Halpin Jr.
Assistant Colorist: Joaquin Pereyra
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Hell is terrifying. That’s sort of the point. We’ve seen it as a setting over and over again throughout literature and right into comic books. And it’s been proven as a great setting for comics. Spawn comes to the fore without even thinking about it. Of course there is always the flip side of that as well, the fluffy clouds and angels and harps and all of that as well. (Angela?…uh yeah. Last Spawn reference.) There is another area in the Heaven/Hell literature, and that is Purgatory. For those who don’t know, Purgatory is sort of like the waiting room between worlds. If there is any question as to where you should go for eternity, you go to Purgatory. Gateway is a look at the inner workings of Purgatory.
Don’t expect Joe Halpin Sr. to drop you into any old misty, shadowy nether realm. Instead, look at the face of Hopetown, a community of souls trapped in between, trying to make a life in the afterlife.
When I first saw the cover I thought of the Johnny Depp film, The 9th Gate. Perhaps it was the matching up of the word “gate” in my head with the vaguely sinister font and cover art, or perhaps it was my neurons playing tricks on me.
Jake Ryan is the newest resident. Killed in a drug sting gone badly, he has arrived in Hopetown with very little faith and even less trust for those people who would have him believe whatever they tell him. Hopetown is run much like many other small towns in America, by a city council, and that council will do anything to keep the power it already has, including, according to some within the city limits, misinforming the public. It’s frustrating that even in the afterlife there are politicians trying to ruin things for the rest of us.
Oh yeah…and there are “lost souls” that occasionally get into the city and attack people. Think the undead, mixing with the dead, who are kind of like the living…let’s just say it’s not a good thing. And that’s part of the appeal here…you have a group of people who are essentially zombies, in between living and dead, being attacked by what are essentially zombies, creatures the same as them except they are unthinking.
This is a father/son project, with Joe Halpin Jr. taking care of coloring and Juanfrancisco Moyano on pencils and inks. Moyano has made a couple of appearances previously in Dungeons and Dragons and a book called Corrective Measures from Arcana.
This book delivered a twist that I haven’t seen yet, Purgatory as residence. As we move into the second issue the mystery surrounding the council deepens, as does Jake’s reticence at staying in Hopetown. My problem is that already in the second issue I wasn’t finding a connection with Jake Ryan. He is portrayed as aloof and purposely sets himself apart from others. He is a loner. But it almost seems too much in this situation. I think even the most hard-boiled detective would look for human connection when faced with the extraordinary situation that he’s been put in. But he is strangely emotionless. Even when he sees a friend, someone who died years before, he shows very little surprise or pleasure.
I’m not really sure on the comics’ name. Is the Gateway a metaphor for death? Is it a literal door? Can it swing both ways? (Of course it can, Gozar taught us that.) I can only assume that Halpin will shed more light on this in future issues.
This was a new take on a post-apocalyptic theme, where death itself is the catastrophe, and I like it for that original concept, but the lack of empathy I felt for Jake and his situation left me feeling like an outsider, like I was watching half a television show where I didn’t know any of the characters, or, like watching the 9th Gate, which I only remember bits of, and probably only because Johnny Depp was in it.
(Disclaimer: I had to IMDb that info just to make sure that was the right title.)
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.