Planet of Daemons began by showing us the worst side of Amos Deathridge. Having taken it upon himself to be his town’s protector, Amos acts with a righteousness that’s stronghanded and quick to judge. He has the leeway to do serious damage, but believes in what he’s doing, and that belief keeps him impartial. Nobody wants to protect a scaremonger, who convicts on the basest accusations, but writer, Kevin Gunstone, doesn’t defend him. He doesn’t influence readers on what to think, and he doesn’t try to make Amos’ actions easier to swallow. In issues three and four, Gunstone tests Amos’ resolve and, in being true to himself, some sympathy for the character shakes loose.
When we first met Amos his witch hunt was denounceable as self-serving and corrupt, but Amos is less motivated by personal ambition than first appearances suggested. He’s not someone you’d rush to support in an election, but his strictness holds up when his wife, Trinity, and best friend, Silas, are suspected of devil collusion. When a man sticks to his convictions, misguided or not, he isn’t a hypocrite, and it’s surprising how sympathetic Amos can be while guarding such unbending opinions. Amos talks of heaven and hell but there’s a reason he’s stationed in the Qliphoth, an in-between place where daemons dwell. Gunstone doesn’t softball how he ended up a jailer of the last place a pious man should be.
Known as the world of hidden secrets, sight in Sathariel is measured by how deep one’s knowledge is of the truth. There are enough demons, notably Salis, who are actually blind but Amos’ sense of vision is worse. He sees without understanding what he’s looking at. There are questions he knows to ask, like who Heinous was before her soul was reincarnated as a succubus, but there are also questions he mistakenly thinks he knows the answer to, that need to be brought to his attention. These are less pleasant and readers will share his desire to absolve Trinity, when the alternative’s so much worse. Amos doesn’t avoid the truth, by not asking questions, but the eye of Lucifer this story arc is named after resembles a question mark for a reason. Amos needs to understand his Puritan past before he can identify the demons in his present.
Artist, Paul Moore, designs background demons with exquisite care, and it would be a mistake to breeze by them unattended. One of my favorites, with a snake’s tail, ended up being the body type of a major character, and it felt kismet to have admired it in advance. Moore repeats traits to make the demons feel apiece with one another but bare skin is all he needs to make a statement. Not many comics could feature a female character who’s unapologetically nude the whole time, but never once does it feel sexualized or exploitive. The interplay between the art and writing is tight (when Silas tries to spin visiting a brothel as his job, his lack of pants sells his story short) and issue three’s turning point, between Amos and his wife, is hard hitting because of Moore’s facial expressions. Through it all crisp colors by Stefan Mrkonjic set Planet of Daemons apart, especially signature touches of blue. Anagrams and a demon family tree, where Pestilance is related to Despair, give new meaning to phrases like “infected by the poison of despair.” The tease at the end of issue four lays the seeds for a great follow-up if the creative team choose to pursue it.
I knew I enjoyed Planet of Daemons the first time I read it but forgot just how much until rereading the series for this review. If your interests lie with the Salem Witch trials and how religious paranoia presents, you should be sated with the life of Amos Deathridge.
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