The title hero to the first volume of Shawn Granger's Innocent (King Tractor Press) is not very prominent on either of the variant covers of his first paperback collection. The first, depicted by Kerem Beyit, features the series' secondary character Charles in portrait center as he battles a giant reptilian demon. It's not bad, but newcomers to the series might understandably come to the mistaken conclusion that this hulking baldie is the title Innocent, rather than his second-in-command. So where's our angel demi-hero, brandishing his terrible swift sword? Down near the bottom right corner.
Innocent‘s second “special edition” cover, is even more indistinct. This ‘un, a Tony DeZuniga penciled piece, placed a generic big-breasted sorceress in center, with our hero hiding behind her, obscured by the title lettering. I’m not automatically averse to this visual tactic – I like big breasts as much as the next straight fanboy – but I can’t help wishing that DeZuniga had more clearly illustrated the book’s hero. It’s not as if this big-boobed sorceress had appeared anywhere inside the book.
The Filipino artist is nowhere to be seen in the book's interior, which features five stories illustrated by a quintet of little-known artists. Too bad, since I would've like to have seen DeZuniga's sturdy brand of professionalism on at least one of these tales of death and retribution. As it is, the inconsistent artwork isn't bad by the standards of indy b-and-w pulp comics, though to my eyes the sturdiest and most easily scannable work is Mannie Abeleda's on "Innocent And the Call Girl."
Four of the Granger-scripted tales originally debuted as web comics, though one (presumably the open-ended final piece, "The Sword") is new to this manga-pb-sized print edition. Each piece centers on Innocent, a one-eyed hit angel who seeks violent retribution on killers who might otherwise have gotten away with murder. He's assisted by the big-boned sociopath Charles, who at times reminds me of the twitchy weirdoes Pruitt Taylor Vince often plays, though his interaction with Innocent has more than a whiff of Ben Affleck & Matt Damon's bantering in Kevin Smith's Dogma. "Do you know if someday I'll do something bad enough to be on your list?" David asks the angel in the first story's opener. "Probably," Innocent replies. Now there's a stern employer.
Though a few of these entries are played relatively straight (e.g., an overly-convoluted tale of murder on the police force), my favorite pieces are the ones that spice the dire deeds with goofy little details. Thus, in "Call Girl," our story's potential hooker victim is hung upside-down by an improbably huge hotel room full of robed "grey men," who grow more powerful by smashing themselves on the crotch with a wooden mallet. (Yowtch!) In "David Goes Home," the twosome visits David's little old lady mother, who assumes that the duo is a gay couple. ("You people are peculiar about your clothes.") As the threesome continues their little dinner get-together, Innocent has to slip out of the house to deal with a murderous female demon living next door. The panel depicting the horned creature's severed head put me in mind of Rei Mikamoto's over-the-top horror manga series, Reiko, the Zombie Shop. Unfortunately, there are no tease-y schoolgirl outfits to be seen in the entire book, though Granger includes a joke about 'em in the hooker story.
Bet it would've made a cool DeZuniga cover . . .