Story: Tyler James & John Lees
Script: John Lees
Artist: Alex Cormack
Lettering: Tyler James
Release Date: 19th August, 2015
I originally reviewed this title last year when an uncolored version was released for 2014’s New York Comic Con. With that disclaimer, I should point out that my previous review will bear some striking similarities to this one, because… well… it’s the same comic! The only difference now is the fact that Alex Cormack’s wonderfully expressive artwork is delivered with added colour, giving it a whole new dimension of depth – particularly during some of the more chilling pages of the book. Hang on though, because I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take this back to the beginning, shall we?
Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare is the brainchild of John Lees and Comixtribe co-founder Tyler James, and introduces us to Mary Clark, a troubled former detective who finds herself struggling with her recent demotion following the death of her partner, all while trying her best to cope with a debilitating illness. Unfortunately, Mary’s return to the force following her demotion is littered with stumbling blocks; resentful colleagues who feel she isn’t fit for work, an overenthusiastic new partner, and – lest we forget – a deranged serial killer who seems to be out to make some kind of statement at the expense of the corrupt politicians and businessmen of her home city of Swanstown.
This is a slow-paced opening issue that takes its time in introducing us to Mary, letting us get to know her gradually instead of hitting us with a massive exposition dump in the opening pages. She comes across as something of an oxymoron herself, radiating both strength and vulnerability in equal measure, and making for an extremely intriguing protagonist as a result.
As engaging as Mary is however, the highlight of this opening issue – as is often the case in these kinds of stories – is the serial killer who Mary finds herself crossing paths with. We only get brief glimpses of him and his handiwork, but in these short, stomach-churning snapshots, we learn pretty much all we need to know about this dangerously unpredictable yet terrifyingly focused (there’s another oxymoron… sort of) individual. If there’s one thing the movie Se7en taught us, it’s that there’s nothing more horrific than a lunatic with a plan, and by all accounts that’s exactly what we have here.
This series continues to show the diversity and chameleonesque script-writing abilities of Lees, who seems to have a knack for nailing pretty much every genre he turns his pen to. Whether it’s capes and cowls drama in The Standard, nauseating horror in And Then Emily Was Gone, or – as shown here – a tense crime thriller, Lees once again cements his reputation as a writer you simply have keep your eyes on in the future, and someone whose passion and versatility all but guarantees him a lengthy career in the world of comic books.
The artwork is provided here by Alex Cormack, and as chilling as his visuals were on the original black-and-white release, they look even better here in full-colour. Cormack’s art is both detailed and expressive, making the vivid characters and frequently shocking events practically leap off the page at you. His cinematic visuals also infuse the storyline beats with an extra layer of emphasis, particularly in the (albeit brief) scenes featuring the killer himself, and he manages to perfectly display the doubt, uncertainty and, ultimately, the determination of lead character Mary as the story develops.
For an opening issue, this serves as a brilliantly paced introduction to the world Lees, James and Cormack have created, and wastes little time in sinking its hooks into you for the rest of the story. I’ve mentioned before on countless occasions how I’m a sucker for a great serial killer comic, and this is most definitely a great serial killer comic. Oxymoron is most definitely a title that gets under your skin… or, more accurately… a title that glues on an additional terrifying layer of skin and forces you to commit horrific acts in order to save your loved ones.
Another belter of a title from the folks at Comixtribe, and proof – if proof were needed – that John Lees is right on the cusp of taking the step from ‘local best-kept-secret’ to ‘one of the most exciting new writers in comics’ (assuming that step hasn’t already been taken) . Chilling, gripping and utterly unmissable, this one is going to be another runaway hit, mark my words.