"Inferno: A Sleep and a Forgetting" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Transfuzion Publishing
Written by Mike Carey
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
1995, 143 Pages
Graphic Novel released on October 15th, 2012
Before working on big titles such as Hellblazer and X-Men: Legacy, Mike Carey wrote Inferno. The book is seeing print once again from Transfuzion Publishing for the first time in years. Accompanied with art from Michael Gaydos, also early on in his career, the book explores the idea of self and the afterlife in a very different and intriguing way.
Travis seems to be doing well for himself, that is until he's murdered outside of a bar on his 30th birthday. As if that wasn't bad enough, the would-be mugger seemed to have him confused for someone else. He called him Terence. Travis awakes in a desert. He's in the Inferno, a city in the afterlife fueled by despair and in a constant power struggle between rival factions. He's been here before but he just doesn't remember it.
We soon learn that Travis has a deeper connection to Terence than he would have ever thought possible. That's because Travis is Terence...or maybe Terence is Travis. Terence lived in Inferno for ages. He finally found a way out, but he had to forget himself in order to do it. He orchestrated an elaborate plan to wipe his own memory and return to the land of the living. In doing so, he created the identity of Travis who now finds himself in a difficult position. Upon returning to Inferno, he's expected and urged to complete Terence's plan, but if he does, that would cost him his very being.
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This idea is at the very heart of Inferno and it's one that found me constantly questioning myself. It's made pretty clear that Terence was a major player in the afterlife. He had vast amounts of power and promised a lot of things to a lot of people. He was also an inspiration to many. All of these people are now turning to Travis and expecting him to do what they feel is the right thing, but that would mean that he must wipe himself from existence. We're not given much detail about Terence. We learn about him just as Travis does, so naturally I found myself sympathizing with the poor guy and trying to place myself in his position. This idea of self is one that is explored in future stories such as Dollhouse as well.
Artist Michael Gaydos has a very raw art style at times and that's certainly the case in this early work. The black and white pencils often resemble rough sketches. They lack fine detail that would be brought out by a good inker and colorist. That being said, Gaydos manages to capture this look of despair with the character of Travis. He's going through these motions, walking the path that Terence laid out for him, not because he wants to, but because he feels obligated to do so. That's shown on his face in almost every panel. He's marching towards certain doom and it's only a matter of time before this comes to an end for him.
Inferno was a comic that really grew on me. It took a few beats for me to get fully immersed in this world that Carey created, but once I understood the basics I was hooked. The battle between Travis and the absent-yet-still-influential Terence was one of wits and difficult decisions. It can be tough to get a concept like this across, but it comes through very easily here. I just hope that when I die I don't end up in a place like this or with people like Terence.
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