Writer: Justin Jordan
Art: Raúl Treviño, with Juan Useche
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Summary from Comixology: “Justin Jordan (John Flood, Spread) tackles a provocative topic-the violent drug cartels of Mexico-partnering with artist Raúl Treviño, who lives in Mexico and is drawing on his first-hand experiences to inform the story. A DEA agent, who disappeared in Mexico years ago, has resurfaced and is now out-brutalizing some of the cartels he was sent to investigate. His daughter has been tasked with stopping him by any means necessary. Perfect for fans of Scalped, the novels Heart of Darkness and Savages, or the film Apocalypse Now.”
I knew practically nothing about Sombra before I read it. I knew that it was about drug cartels and that Justin Jordan wrote it. That dude can do no wrong in my book. I love so many of his series; Dark Gods, Spread, Luther Strode, and his run on Shadowman is one of my favorite things that Valiant comics has ever published. So I may have already been a *tad* biased, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t still as little unsure as to what the pages of Sombra held in store for me. Luckily, hope won out and it’s turned out to be one of the most captivating comics I’ve read this year.
As you can read in the summary above, the story is essentially about a DEA agent having to go to Mexico to track down her own father who went rogue, after being subjected to witnessing the violent cruelty of the Cartel first hand, and decided to take matters of justice into his own hands. And boy does he make them pay. There’s some dismembering, some partial crucifixion, a little light impalement. To put it in basic comic terms… I guess it’s like watching Barbara Gordon (pre-wheelchair) hunt down The Punisher. It puts you in a tough spot. Who do you root for? Obviously the Cartel are pieces of s**t who deserve a;; the aforementioned torture, but as a U.S. law enforcement officer it’s still her responsibility to bring him in to answer for going AWOL and, you know, mass murder of human lives.
Justin Jordan knows how to tell a story, and he knows how a story needs to be told. Sombra is a very interesting story for him because it uses the reality of Mexican drug cartels, and the subsequent corruption generated by their mere existence. Many of his past works use a lot of fantasy and imagination to conjure the atmosphere, but here the guy can just do some Google searches and boom, inspiration abounds a plenty. It only goes to show that his form and style are extremely versatile.
The artwork of Sombra fits perfectly with the story and tone because it’s art that feels intentionally like a comic. What I mean is, these days many comic creators come across as if they’re trying too hard to have their series taken seriously as a piece of literature, forgetting (or deliberately ignoring) the fact that they’re a comic. I’m not saying that comics shouldn’t be taken seriously, or that their not legitimate artistic literature. I’m saying that creators betray their craft by behaving as if it needs to be something else to be more credible. Comics are credible. They’re valuable to culture, and they don’t have to be convaludedly abstract to be taken seriously. (I seem to have gone off on a tangent there. Sorry about that.)
Raúl Treviño knows exactly who he is as an artist and the art of Sombra is a reflection of that. He’s drawn a beautiful comic that juxtaposes the dark, brutality of the underlying plot with bright, manga-esque artwork. His line-work is on point, and his attention to detail never suffers. Throw in the fantastic color-work from Juan Useche, and you’ve got a comic that feels completely and satisfyingly balanced.
Look, if you’re reading the same 5 or 6 books from the same 2 publishers all the time, then you need to mix it up. Sombra is a great new mini-series that you can read from the beginning. It’s only going to be 4 issues long which is just the right amount of story for you to get addicted. Jordan and Treviño have created and crafted a great story that’s off to an enthralling start and I guarantee you won’t be able to wait for the next issue.