Friday, March 17, 2006


Phil Hester's The Atheist

I've never understood why Phil Hester isn't a comics superstar. He's a triple threat: a talented artist, a gifted scripter, and a spectacular "idea" guy. Most comic readers probably know him (if at all) in the first of those roles, from books like DC's Green Arrow and Nightwing or Marvel's Ultimate Marvel Team-Up. Those who have been lucky enough to pick up the books Hester has written, things like The Wretch, Firebreather, The Coffin, or Deep Sleeper, though, know that he slings a fine keyboard as well as a pen-and-ink.

The long-delayed third issue of Phil Hester and John McCrea's The Atheist is just out this week, and it's staggeringly good. It's the kind of thing that, were it published with Warren Ellis's name on it, comics afficianados would be wetting themselves over.

Here's the tagline, from the publisher's website:
Our world has dark corners normal people refuse to enter. They are populated by unspeakable things that defy logic and feed on fear. But these beings do have a natural predator in the form of Antoine Sharpe. He’s a scalpel on two legs bent on cutting out the disease infesting the human race, even if it kills the patient. A misanthropic genius and heartless hero, he’s better known to his government handlers as simply…the Atheist.

Sharpe, in the first three issues of the series, has dealt with a sentient cancer and a plague of dead "spirits" possessing the bodies of the living. Fairly standard work for a misantropic genius hero, but it's in the details that Hester really shines.

Sharpe explains in the third issue why he's called the "Atheist." It is because he believes nothing. He either knows, or he doesn't know. Later, he explains to his companion something of his working methods.
I'm a bit autistic, dear.

I read at the pace of a first grader. I cannot drive. Yellow and white are the only colors of clothing that do not make me vomit when they touch my skin. It is dangerous to let me cook.

I can, however, tell you the age and sex of an author by merely glancing at a printed page, or the flaw in a car enigne by feeling its vibration through the hood, or when a dam will fail by the coolness of the mist above its spillway.

All systems reflect information the way an object reflects light. I see information bloom in front of me--a fractal flower of probability.

There are some sample pages from the first issue of The Atheist on the publisher's site, but sadly it looks like the preview pages of the third issue are all dead links. Long months separated the release of the second and third issues of the series, so there's no telling when another will be released. Check out the first three issues, though, as well as some of Hester's other recent creator-owned projects, The Coffin (soon to be a feature film directed by Guillermo Del Toro) and Deep Sleeper. It's good stuff.

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