Edited by Kaitlin Campos
Kiss Me, Satan is something of a rarity in my work, in that it has so far been consistently good. I realize that, in this case, that consistency has lasted for all of 2 issues, but it still puts it above a lot of other series I’ve done, like The Occultist, most of Brian Wood’s offerings, or any of the Conan comics. The only other series I can think of with this distinction are Shaolin Cowboy (to an extent) and Lord Baltimore, definitely.
Which makes this latest issue all the more heart breaking as I think the bloom is starting to come off the Kiss Me, Satan rose, if you’ll forgive the purple nature of that prose. In case you haven’t been following Kiss Me, Satan, it chronicles the adventures of a coven of witches in New Orleans, who have become caught up in the complications and intricacies of Louisiana’s extensive crime/magic community. I reviewed Kiss Me, Satan 2 and 3 and, as I implied only a few sentences ago, really enjoyed both; the series is an enchanting blend of 80s machismo and hedonistic visuals, with a lot of characters looking like the villains of the week on Miami Vice, and with a very spooky fantasy style, grounded in tropes and concepts usually confined to horror. All of this comes with a great fusion of crime stories that feel like the collaboration between Snatch era Guy Ritchie and Pain & Gain enthusiasm Michael Bay.
The actual story of Kiss Me, Satan is that the witches (originally numbering 3 apprentices and an elderly crone lead witch) are on the run from the local werewolf mafia/pack leader Cassian Steele, after learning something ominous about his newborn son. As such, Cassian has placed a fat bounty on the witches’ heads, and it’s winner-take-all as New Orleans’ collection of mystical killers crawls out of the woodwork to claim the prize.
But the witches have an ace up their sleeve in the form of Barnabus Black (don’t you just love these names?), an ex-demon turned human trying to earn back his horns (I think; a lot of Barnabus’s story is only implied so it’s sort of unclear). Last issue saw the introduction of a bigger threat in the form of Malcolm Drake, a powerful wizard and frontrunner for crazy archnemesis, who is sort of the Joker to Cassian Steele’s Carmine Falconi. We also saw –spoilers- the death of the mother crone who passed on her mystic doodad, ‘the eye of fate’, to the sole-surviving witch who goes unnamed in this issue, which leads me somewhat into my problem for issue 3.
Kiss Me, Satan #3 sees a major change in focus and main character away from the witches, and more towards their beefy bodyguard Barnabus Black. Where before he was firmly in supporting cast, now it feels a lot more like he’s the hero and everyone else is just along for the ride in his story. He’s the one with internal narration this go-round, and he also ends up being the character to start driving the story forward, where the unnamed last witch standing takes on a role more in line with a love interest. It’s a shame, too, because the girl power element was one of the book’s finest features before, and I’m not really sure I’d call Barnabus a better choice of main character. He’s admittedly more sure of himself than the girls, owing to his skill and experience, but he has a bad habit of completely no-selling people’s attacks during fight scenes.
This is one of my biggest personal pet peeves in action sequences, and I find it is particularly bad in comics, so I’m going to address it now— no-selling is a term that comes from the wrestling world, where a wrestler fails to actually make another guy’s offensive shots at them look convincing (oh yeah, pro-wrestling is completely staged and fake, but you probably already knew that). I use it as a short hand in comics to describe when a character is written to be so powerful or invulnerable that nothing even manages to faze or threaten them. That’s how I feel about Barnabus Black in this latest issue of Kiss Me, Satan.
We spent a good chunk of Kiss Me, Satan #3 building up Malcolm the magician, but in his big first fight scene, Barnabus just shrugs off every attack from him like it was nothing. I’m actually not unconvinced this issue isn’t just someone’s Barnabus Black fanfiction, as most of the issue involves him beating up the bad guy then going back to his swinging bachelor pad and getting his love on with the unnamed female character in some pretty explicit scenes I won’t be featuring in this review.
This issue just doesn’t feel like its part of the same series I was reading before, at least not for the most part. The only way it comes into line with the previous issues is that it starts to feel kind of formulaic, with the constant ‘game changing reveal’ of a new enemy at the end of each issue. I feel like our time would be better served exploring the enemies that have already been created.
But overall, this is less of a Kiss Me, Satan: awesome female characters magic and kill their way through the New Orleans mystical underworld in a Miami Vice paint job, and more Kiss Me, Satan: the Barnabus Black show, featuring the super-awesome Barnabus Black, thrill as he beats up people who pose no threat to him and gets it on with characters who used to be far more interesting. So, yeah, this issue represents a definite change for the worst. There are still some parts I liked, like there are some new enemy designs that are cool, and Cassian has a touching moment with his newborn, but this is the first issue of Kiss Me, Satan I honestly can’t recommend.