Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Raúl Treviño
Release Date: 24 August, 2016
The cartel has been all the rage the past couple of years. Netflix’s Narcos series, based on the cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, achieved widespread popularity and critical acclaim for its portrayal of Colombia’s most notorious criminal mastermind. Last year, Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario gave us one of the best films in recent memory, and – also last year – the Academy Award-nominated documentary Cartel Land was a remarkable feat in which pundits and viewers bestowed with their plaudits, as it presented the reality of the Mexican Drug War through a raw, unflinching and brutal lens. Those are merely the tip of the iceberg of recent cartel fare in popular media, but Sombra uses the world in which they reside as a backdrop for a nail biting thriller.
In the first issue, we were introduced to DEA agent Danielle Marlowe, daughter of the veteran Conrad Marlowe, a rogue agent who entered the belly of the beast to kill it and ended up becoming its beating, sinister heart. Danielle entered Mexico in pursuit of her old man, but the cartel seemed to know she was coming and the issue ended in a tension-filled hideout in a church. The next issue picks up immediately where the previous instalment left off – and amps up the intensity tenfold.
If you go in to Sombra expecting it to be just another crime story about the cartel, you’ll likely be in for a shock. Here it crosses the border into visceral horror, as an eerie ambiguous mystery unfolds and violence reaches its apex with dismembered mutilated body parts on display like twisted art exhibitions. Some of the images contained within these frames are gruesome and wouldn’t look out of place in a Hellraiser story, but the most haunting aspect is that sense of inescapable doom in every panel.
The artwork by Raúl Treviño is a particular highlight, with every panel possessing a gritty sense of decay. The ugliness of this world is exemplified thoroughly and the sense of unease is a constant throughout because of it. Stylistically, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Jason Aaron’s work on Scalped. That’s not to say it’s copycat or anything, but if you’re familiar with the sun-scorched sorrow of that series, you might find similar feelings evoked here.
Sombra is a title deserving of its association with its publisher, because after you’ve read it, you might scream “BOOM!’’ at the top of your lungs. This is a winner and it fully deserves your hard-earned money.
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The writer of this piece was: Kieran Fisher
Kieran Tweets from @HairEverywhere_.