Writer: Omar Spahi
Artist: Terry Huddleston
Publisher: OSSM Comics
From the mind of Xenoglyphs writer Omar Spahi comes Thaniel, the story of a young man, well acquainted with loss, who becomes the living embodiment of Death itself. Accompanied by the gorgeous black-and-white art of Terry Huddleston, Spahi weaves the tale of a very unusual hero indeed—one who has no qualms (at least, in the heat of the moment) about killing and violently dismembering those who, in his view, have it coming. About halfway through the book, Thaniel articulates his attitude like this:
“Prison doesn’t work. It just takes bad people away for a little while until they’re back to do bad things again. I don’t want to put people in jail for life and bleed our resources on messed-up people. That money could be used to feed the poor.”
It isn’t exactly the most noble approach to crimefighting; nor is it a levelheaded approach to the problem of crime in general. Thaniel is aware of this, and much of the first-person narration that punctuates the major events of the story is spent reflecting on that fact. Why, then, does he feel the impulse to kill every criminal who crosses his path, even those who aren’t themselves murderous? Your guess, perhaps, is as good as Thaniel’s, and it’s this question that drives the inner conflict that dominates this first issue.
Despite how it may sound, Thaniel is the sort of book that defies an easy “superhero” classification. It’s built on an intriguing psychological premise—a protagonist driven to kill when it’s clear the person behind the person beneath the hood would rather not—and otherwise eschews the traditional widescreen scope of a superhero book, maintaining a street-level perspective that is focused on Thaniel as a character more than anything else.
It’s this hook, the notion of a would-be hero not fully in control of his own actions, that provides the dramatic tension that permeates every page of Thaniel. This idea also lends the comic a horror edge that it might have otherwise lacked, creating a not-quite-supernatural atmosphere that recalls the fully supernatural concepts behind characters like Ghost Rider and The Crow. Still, Spahi is too self-aware as a writer to fall too quickly into traditional tropes of either the horror or superhero genres, and the details surrounding our main character’s condition are left appropriately ambiguous for now.
It isn’t that Thaniel is a gritty, “realistic” take on the superhero premise as much as it is a cerebral exploration of the moral ambiguity posed by the archetypal antihero. While it’s hard to get an idea of how thoroughly Spahi means to drive this angle home as the story progresses, the taste we have in this debut issue will be more than enough to spark many readers’ interest. With a damn impressive artistic flair and a compelling concept, Thaniel is one comic to watch in the weeks and months to come. The first issue drops April 9 via OSSM Comics.