Mini-comics can be the cruelest of mistresses. This single-serving, independently-produced format allows comics creators full control over their vision, and a whole lot of effort goes into the production of each slim volume, meaning that the end product is richly satisfying but often all too brief. Andy Belanger’s “Black Church” provides exactly this experience, packing a whole lot of violence, sex and Satan into its 36 pages.
Set in a semi-historical milieu that evokes Conan’s Hyborian Age, the war-torn region in the Carpathian mountains is on the verge of an apocalyptic event. A hugely-muscled Vlad Tsepes, his brother and a woman accused of witchcraft escape from the clutches of Ottoman captors. Elsewhere in Wallachia, the current king has visions of a child possessing startling powers. It’s the set-up for an epic occult event, adding a healthy dose of heavy psychedelia to the sword and sorcery formula.
Belanger’s art is energetic and beautiful, even during gruesome moments. Crisp black and white inking given moody depth with halftones. Some of my favorite moments in “Black Church” are the quietest, like the sound effects that emerge from the horses’ hooves as they walk in the snow. His character design is dramatic yet appealing, with naturalistic figures sharing space with heroic ones. Every design choice complements the blending of historical and fantastical in the story. Belanger has said that the book is his ode to heavy metal, and there’s an unmistakable bombast and pace to “Black Church” that evokes the bigness and loudness of that musical style.
It all ends with a tantalizing “To Be Continued.” Initially released in June 2012, I’m eagerly hoping that there will be a second installment of the story soon!
I was able to nab a copy from the artist along with this badass Baphomet tiger sketch last summer. Belanger was offering commissions of favorite metal bands and he took this awesomely trippy approach to my choice of Electric Wizard.