Straitjacket vol. 2 (#1) – El Torres

4 out of 5

Amigo Comics has died and resurrected a couple of times now, struggling through publishing woes and thankfully – because I very much like, or have at least been intrigued by, the majority of their output – reemerging and getting busy with output once on the other side. However, each time this has occurred, anything running when the shutdown happens doesn’t seem to be picked back up, leaving some really promising stuff in limbo.

I kept waiting, waiting, waiting for the next issues of Straihtjacket volume 2 to emerge, and maybe they still will… but maybe they also won’t. I reread the first volume before finally cracking this issue, and it was even better than I’d recalled: incredibly moody, brutal, haunting, and then oddly beautiful as well, with its uniquely stark – with spot red colors – art style.

And yeah, dammit, volume 2 gets us off to such a good start, with the previously-incarcerated, then-escaped Alex Wagner – she who kills people she claims are possessed by “feeders” from “The Other Side,” assisted by her dead brother who resides on said other side – giving herself up, back to imprisonment, seemingly ready to accept her fate. …Except, really, she just wants to swap places with her brother, giving him a chance to live a life while she does The Other Side bit.

Torres’ walked a fascinatingly fine, Calvin-and-Hobbes-ish Is It Real? line in the first volume, and keeps it up here, although we certainly lean in to the answer being Yes, given how much impossibilities we witness. The important thing, though, is that Torres doesn’t oversell that stuff, allowing for just enough doubt to make the violence we witness that much more edgy. The writers strength at defining characters is well-served by the talky – but absolutely engrossing – script, and new artist Juanfra Mb’s grounded, heavy-lined style, although I don’t know that the look lends itself well to the more surreal aspects – the red splashing is more painterly and loose here, which doesn’t feel as aggressive and ominous as it did previously. However, this first issue also seems like a relative calm before a storm, so it’s possible it would’ve shaped up in future issues.

Which I’ll keep hoping we see, maybe in some collected form in the future.