Garth Ennis
A Walk Through Hell
Medium: comic
Year: 2018
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Goran Sudzuka
Keywords: Christian, horror
Format: 280 pages, 12 issues
Website category: Comics
Review date: 6 July 2023
walk through hell
Garth Ennis fans might hate this one. It's a modern horror story that's basically just twelve issues of talking. The protagonists are impotent and hardly anyone does anything except in flashbacks. They talk, walk and talk. Biblically bad things are going to happen and any attempt from our heroes to avert the oncoming horror will only make things worse.
Knowing Ennis, I guessed early what was going on. You're meant to. The surprise is that Ennis isn't really having a go at religion, except en passant. He's having a go at us. People. Modern discourse. I only wonder how this book will read in twenty or thirty years time, when Trump's long gone (aka. the "feces-throwing chimp jealous of corruption it couldn't benefit from") and we've hopefully evolved into different kinds of online wankers.
It must be said, though, that Ennis has a point. He's speaking to us, now, and he's right about the kinds of discourse we've let ourselves become accustomed to (both the self-righteous left and the knuckle-dragging right). He overstates what the consequences will be, but that's because the Antichrist is a character in the story and pulling the world's strings. (When he needs to. Part of the point is that he usually doesn't and the horrors in the world are ultimately just what people do to other people.)
This isn't the only Antichrist in an Ennis comic, incidentally, but it's the most horrific of them. By a long way. If he'd been in The Omen, it couldn't have been shown in cinemas.
Is this book fun? Hell, no. Is it exciting, thrilling, etc? Absolutely not. It's none of those things. It's ugly, dull and a slog. It's trying to make you think, not just react emotionally to heroes and villains (as we're used to in storytelling). If you dislike slow, talky stories, run away from this and never look back. It's also so bleak and downbeat that there's arguably more hope to be found in Crossed. That said, though, I admire the fact that Ennis wrote something so uncommercial. One underrated thing about Ennis, I think, is that he's a bad fit for how the comics industry normally works. The norm is series. Lots of them. Anything that can be cranked out industrially, month after month. Ennis has his share of those too (Preacher, Punisher, The Boys, Hellblazer, etc.), but he's also done lots of one-off or short projects and stopped at what he thinks is the right place to end them. Even when the publisher's badgering him for more. He throws his weight behind niche revivals of 1970s UK newsstand comics. He often returns to the same ideas, themes and genres, yes, but I've always liked what he does with them.
This an interesting book, but I wouldn't recommend it to most people. It's a bleak, ugly curiosity with an ending that's both pessimistic and disappointing. (As with most of the book, the stuff you'd normally expect to see is kept offscreen and we're just hearing people talk about it afterwards.) It deconstructs good behaviour (e.g. forgiveness) and says explicitly that evil is other people and that the shit will continue if no one goes out there to stop it. Passively tutting and disapproving as we all tend to do is to allow it to continue. (But the people who try to fix it fail too and might even make things worse.)
It's certainly different, though. I could imagine some Ennis-haters thinking it's his best book and really appreciating it.