Music and comics are increasingly crossing over. Gerard Way has his own imprint at DC, Max Bemis of Say Anything has a regular gig writing, and back in 2013, Corey Taylor released The House of Gold & Bones. And now Slayer has teamed up with Dark Horse and turned their 2015 album Repentless into a comic book. Well, sort of.
Repentless, the album, marks a turning point for Slayer. It was their first album since founding member Jeff Hanneman passed away in 2013, and the first album where Kerry King was lead songwriter. Bittersweetly, it was their highest-charting album in the US, debuting at #4 on the Billboard Top 200. So that makes it an odd choice that Repentless, the comic book with script by Metalocalypse and Venture Bros. writer Jon Schnepp and art by Guiu Villanova, is pretty much about the band killing Nazis.
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We don’t actually see the band until almost the end of the first issue. Instead we follow Wyatt, a former neo-Nazi who left the life behind, but is dragged back in by his vicious brother Adrian. The comic is filled with nods to the videos, from horror maestro B.J. McDonnell, and fills out the backstory behind them.
The videos weren’t exactly models of restraint and the comic follows suit; throats are slashed, faces are skinned, and so on, although there is more of a plot than just mindless revenge. Villanova gives the whole thing the feel of a ’70s horror comic out of Warren Publishing’s heyday, but he also tones down the lurid nature just enough to keep things from feeling campy. As over-the-top as the whole thing is, and Schnepp is perfectly willing to put some purple dialogue in the mouths of his heroes and villains and even quote lyrics at points, it doesn’t collapse into stereotype either.
Really, probably the best aspect of the book is that it’s accessible; if you don’t know anything about Slayer, you can still pick it up as an extreme R-rated read, while hardcore fans will love finding all the little nods towards the band hidden in the book. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here: This is the first of three issues, and fans can pick it up January 25th.