Mercy
Medium: comic
Year: 1993
Writer: J.M. DeMatteis
Artist: Paul Johnson
Format: 63 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 6 November 2021
A man's having an out-of-body experience as he dies of a stroke. He's not too bothered by this. "What a wonderful thing it was, my stroke. No pain. Just a rippling through my brain... a tear in my consciousness. I felt the weight of responsibility -- of business, family, sorrow, depression -- just drop away."
He's pleased to be rid of the world, which he calls a stinking cesspool of a planet. "I had everything that's supposed to guarantee a soul happiness. All the inoculations against misery: money, power, fame -- beautiful wife, perfect children, willing mistress. And I was hollow. A tin man. You could knock on my chest and hear the echo for miles."
Then, while drifting as an astral being, he becomes aware of something called Mercy. She keeps getting involved in the world, which baffles and slightly offends him. She helps people.
It's a magical, mystical story, but it also flows well. It's entirely narrated by our unnamed first-person cynic, drifting through terrestrial existences in his quest to understand Mercy. His voice is what we're following... but this isn't an unmixed blessing. It keeps slightly at arm's length the individual stories of the people Mercy helps. Their dialogue becomes reported. We're following his story, not theirs. There's a lot of compassion and heart that we could, perhaps, a bit, have been allowed to touch more directly.
It's still nice, though. The ending's good, if inevitable. Paul Johnson does beautiful paintings for a story that inspired him (and he's since quit comics because he wasn't interested in the kind of work you get in the English-language industry). I quite like this story... but I'm not head-over-heels crazy about it. I think it's interesting, not brilliant. It is, though, unusual, humane and a kind of story you never normally see.