Art Kevin Enhart Newel Anderson
Colours Jimmy Kerast
Right off the bat, Satanic Hell is going to draw comparisons with Sean Murphy’s Punk Rock Jesus. Both deal with strong anti-establishment types of music – Heavy Metal for the former and Punk rock with the latter – and both deal similarly with religious fanaticism, and how the cast reacts to it. But that’s where these similarities begin and end. Where Punk Rock Jesus took a more nuanced response to Christian fanaticism, Satanic Hell simply decides that it wants to flip the bird to fundamentalist Christianity, and ride off into the sunset in a black hearse. Although the themes are completely sound in a ridiculous kind of way, the characterisations of the cast feel week, and the story doesn’t rise above feeling fairly flat.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Satanic Hell is set in a dystopic Texas, where financial woes on a state-wide scale have led to a fundamentalist sect of Christians taking over the governing body. Abortion is illegal, homosexuality is medicated and repressed and, of course, rock music is banned. Enter Satanic Hell, a three man heavy metal group – Exodus, Dante, and Death Priest – who are delivering their own brand of revolution in a series of underground shows. If that sounds completely ridiculous, that’s because it is. The entire thing has a strong pulpy vibe to it in a way that means if anyone tried to parse the particulars of how these events came about, you’re bound to find some holes, so it’s best to sit back and enjoy the ride.
The problem is that to back up a tale as ridiculous as this, it needs a strong central cast. That’s where Satanic Hell stumbles – none of its three main characters are particularly interesting, each feeling less like real people and more like they came straight out of an angst ridden teenager’s creative writing project. They never rise above the stereotypes, even so far as Dante having a fairly clichéd upbringing, and it means that the events that take place never feel like they have much weight. Again, there isn’t inherently wrong with this cast of characters, they just don’t feel fully realised yet.
That said, there are some fairly decent moments in these two issues. The scene involving two clueless Christians and Death Priest carrying the cross is fairly amusing in a ridiculous kind of way, and the show the band plays has some of Enhart and Anderson’s best art across the two issues. Helped along by Jimmy Kerast’s muted colours and use of light, their art is suitably grimy and rough. Aside from problems regarding the similar facial designs, the art is strong across the board.
That’s the main crux of these two issues – with having to build such a ridiculous world, the characterisations have suffered. But with the promise of such a world, and backed up by some solid art, Satanic Hell could flesh out into something fun, and only two issues in, it definitely has time to do so.