Review of Michael Easton’s new graphic novel, Credence (also posted in Reviews section of this site)
Credence Review by Alison Armstrong
Where tawdry, contrived “reality” shows featuring floozy debutantes and wannabe poseurs have replaced creatively expressive forms of media, authenticity, integrity, courage, as well as the most profound depths of horror, are obscured beneath a fluorescent sheen of mindless, sensationalistic entertainment. Michael Easton’s graphic novel Credence, illustrated by Steven Perkins, vividly depicts this bleak yet all-too-familiar contemporary milieu, highlighting its depressing banality while exploring the capacity for heroism in the midst of the most gruesome depravity.
Danny Credence, the main character of the novel, is a deeply flawed detective at home in the cesspool landscape of filth, crime, drugs, and celebrity worship. He is a rebel, a transgressor of some of the very laws he as a police officer is supposed to enforce, yet he is also a man struggling to retain his battered ideals. Subjected to abuse by his hateful, tyrannical father, Credence learns that violence is a means of survival and that the boundaries between conventional morality and immorality are often hazy. Despite his shortcomings as a policeman, husband, and person, however, he is driven by a sense of honor, a need to protect the innocent and vulnerable while destroying the malevolent forces that threaten everything good within humanity. Credence has the opportunity to redeem himself when he encounters a murderer who delights in dismembering his young victims. This diabolical nemesis, Andras, like Jung’s concept of the Shadow, represents the darkest aspects of the psyche, the twisted, unappeasable demons haunting, tormenting, and tempting mankind in many different guises and masks throughout history. Bolstered by his proud, pugnacious Celtic heritage, the “Belfast blood—a snake pit of Irish American rogues out there just waiting to be summoned,” Credence prepares to battle Andras to the death.
Easton’s prose—raw, at times profane, yet balanced by passages of poignant beauty, such as his description of the 9/11 rescue dogs searching for signs of life buried beneath the crushing, indifferent rubble of mass-scale death—lays bare the bones, skin, guts, and blood of our worst nightmares and traces with shadowy, evasive tenderness the resilient, revivifying whispers of hope. Giving cinematic vividness to Easton’s words, illustrator Steven Perkins presents in lushly shadowed gradations of black, white, and grey dizzying perspectives—towering skyscrapers and plunging descents. Alleys, basements, and subways lurk with chiaroscuro menace. Faces snarl, scream, and contort with hellish intensity. Like a film noir movie in print form, Perkins conveys an everpresent mood of mystery and unease in a landscape where the worst things are always waiting to happen.
Although the book’s subject matter is dark and disturbing, Easton’s sly, sarcastic wit, his scathingly perceptive observations of our society’s obsession with shallow, insipid, ignoble idols provide invigorating doses of comic relief. In opposition to these crass, disreputable icons, Easton pays homage to heroes who embolden and inspire–the dedicated police officers and servicemen who risk their lives to save others, as well as the artists and musicians (such as Lou Reed, Patti Smith, and Shane MacGowan depicted towards the close of the book) who challenge us to create a new, much more vital and satisfying, reality. As in his Soul Stealer graphic novel series, Easton’s new book is a riveting exploration of sin, valor, love, brutality, and sacrifice. This time the mythic elements are concealed within the gritty, contemporary urban setting. Celebrity flunkies have presumptuously tried to take the place of the ancient gods, but, as Credence shows, the battle between good and evil is as fierce as ever, and heroes, despite their flaws, are just as crucial.