Necropolitan (#1 – 2) – Mike Phillips and Julian Darius

4 out of 5

Yeah, it’s definitely a bit try-hard with its language, and some of its ideas, but it’s admittedly hard to get away from that kind of stuff when your setting is Hell. Interestingly, I’d also say the core setup isn’t all that grabbing in itself – and doesn’t really feel like it makes much sense as it’s explained – but this is one title that absolutely benefits from something that tends to kill other books: an excess of ideas.

Necropolitan is, as mentioned, set in Hell. In the world of the book, this isn’t a locale ruled over by a Satan, nor is it especially an endless slough of torture. The latter exists for different purposes… but so do hotels, and comic book stores, and bars. As for the former, the lands are instead broken up into regions run by notables: Beelzebub; Nero. And so Mark, new to Hell, is recruited by Jack the Ripper and Elizabeth Bathory to be part of their particular clique, and thus gets “trained” on the day-to-day business of, essentially, being a mob enforcer in Hell.

Yeah, it’s cute, but it’s a little slippery on the Whys and Hows of all of this, and the endless winks at the superstar names in Hell is a little tiresome. However, the visuals – from Steven Legge and colorist Donovan Yaciuk – are a wonderous blend of the disgusting and the norm, which is a hard balance to pull off, and lends the book a very distinct feel as compared to other titles that like to play in Hellscapes. This sits well with the way that co-writer Mark Phillips tosses in a lot of extras on the day-to-day going-ons, and when there are some asides sprinkled throughout on the nature of humanity and how it’s reflected down here – which reads of co-writer Julian Darius’ inputs – Necropolitan becomes an utterly fascinating commentary as well. Lastly, Mark’s story about how he arrived in Hell – killing those who prey on others – is notably too easy, but in a way that does what it’s supposed to do: garners interest in what he’s not saying, or rather what he doesn’t likely realize, as he seems to believe his own words.

So: Necropolitan arrives with a high-concept pitch that’s a little clunky, and some rah-rah edgey nonsense, but the way the artists and writers weave a lot of extra details and concepts into the mix – and provide an actually compelling lead character arc – bump it up to a book that proves to be quite gripping. (…Unfortunate that publisher Martian Lit’s output has slowed down quite a bit, but hopefully we’ll get more issues in this series at some point…)