A massive earthquake has rocked California; the world has broken down and chaos reigns. Gangs have taken over large parts of Los Angeles and fight turf battles to protect what is theirs. One of those gangs is the Kings of HELL.A. How does it fare?
Writer Lee Bermejo and artist Alessandro Vitti dive into a completely new story in Suiciders: Kings of HELL.A. #1 with a brand new protagonist. However, not all of the old gang is gone and the Suiciders cast a shadow over the Kings of HELL.A.
The story begins as all of our stories begin, with a birth: the birth of a ruined city and the birth of a young girl. Bermejo does an excellent job in the opening sequence of introducing us to this desolate and violent world and mirroring both the birth of the child and the birth of this new city. It sets the stage to see the city change and adapt with the will of the child.
Not only is the child born into this chaotic world, but Bermejo crafts an even more traumatic origin. Although it is unoriginal, it reinforces the harshness of the world and the finality of death. Unfortunately, the extra trauma is never discussed in this first issue; it just happens to add further shock. We never see how it actually affects the character. It almost seems superfluous to the story and unnecessary because the after effects aren’t shown.
After the introduction, Bermejo jumps forward 15 years and really dives into the characters and further explores the world. The world is full of rival gangs that rule through brute force. Bermejo reiterates this point over and over again with the assistance of Vitti’s artwork. Violence rules the day in resolving disputes whether it is tossing off a corporation lackey from the gang’s territory, to bullying an old-timer to giving up his weapons, to an all-out gang battle. The strong wield power and only the strong survive.
There are some personal moments and Bermejo focuses on two primary relationships. The first is a forbidden love interest which does a great job of humanizing Trix, the female protagonist. But what it really shows is that these gang members are still young kids who are trying to be kids whether it is enjoying some skateboard time or sneaking around with a boy.
The second relationship is with her brother. He is the leader of the Kings of HELL.A. and expects his commands to be followed. He is also extremely overbearing and protective of Trix. You can feel the tension between the two. It will be an interesting dynamic to follow as the series continues, especially given certain panels and the closing dialogue hinting at something her brother might not approve of.
Those certain panels also seem radically out of place given the violent action scenes taking place all around them. It is quite confusing figuring out why they are even included or how it is actually happening. It does make you want to keep reading to figure out how it happened.
Vitti’s artwork is solid. He does a fantastic job of capturing the absolute horror of the gang fights. He includes small details like a tongue stuck out of Trix’s brother’s mouth as he slits open an enemy member’s throat. It captures her brother’s bloodlust and sheer craziness as he loses himself in the combat.
Some of the combat panels do feel out of place. There is a two-page horizontal panel depicting two gangs charging at each other as if the combat is just about to take place. However, the combat has been happening for a full three pages before this one. It doesn’t really make sense with its placement.
Suiciders: Kings of HELL.A. #1 is a good introduction to the Suiciders world. It captures the brutality of gang warfare, does a good job of introducing characters, has solid world building, and has depth with hints of subthemes regarding birth and family. You won’t go wrong picking this book up if you are looking for a solid mature dystopian.
- Subthemes of birth and family
- Good characterization and introduction of relationships
- Solid world building
- Out of place combat panels
- Superfluous, violent scenes that are never seen truly impacting the characters
- Unexplained and seemingly randomly placed sexual panels