When I started watching Leverage last year, one thing that stuck out at me was the motivation behind former insurance investigator Nathan Ford turns to a life of confidence games: he couldn’t find a proper cure for his dying son in time to make a difference and was effectively betrayed by his own company in that regard. It was a rather important emotional event in the character’s history and made me love the character. It has stuck with me all this time, and now it looks like I’ll be getting to see something similar in comics, thanks to writers Christina Blanch and Chris Carr.
The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood is the latest series from Dynamite, and it explores a similar setup to Nathan Ford in Leverage. Charlie is struggling to make ends meet as a prison English teacher while his son suffers in the hospital, and his marriage to his wife also suffers. Christina and Chris write a story of temptation and the road to hell that really drags down Charlie Wormwood. It is a beautifully written story about an everyday man’s struggles, and the art by Chee and Troy Peteri is similarly impressive, creating a very appropriate creepy and dark vibe.
Charlie Wormwood is a prison English teacher and times are rough for him. His… students are a disrespectful bunch. There are cracks in his marriage related to the high hospital bills for his sick son’s treatment and the overtime he is doing. It is all weighing him down immensely, and as the issue progresses, you really are able to connect with him on an emotional level. The writers draw you into Charlie’s world bit by little bit, and you really get to see the man he is, and who he wishes to be and the man his wife wishes to be.
This is a crime-thriller story, but the first issue only introduces you to the characters and their lot in life. It doesn’t go beyond that into some high commentary or anything. This is a character-driven story where the larger story is on hold until ground zero is all set up. The issue suffers from proper pacing early on, but then it really starts to come together in the final ten pages. Thing is, the issue is almost half as long as a regular issue, and there is a lot of story packed in here. The writers use Charlie’s profession to commentate on his life and that of the other main character, the criminal mastermind Barnum who is serving his sentence in the same prison Charlie works at. There is just enough detail here to get you hooked on, and enough character development as well, but it doesn’t ever become overbearing thankfully.
The issue is broken down into chapters it seems and each chapter has a specific intent behind it, which ties into the above point about the story being told through the mechanics of Charlie’s job, with there being a smaller story in each chapter that connects into the issue-specific meta-story. I like the approach because it created some natural pauses in the story at just the right moments, and let me pace my reading as well, though I finished it in about 15 minutes or so.
Still, this was a pretty interesting story. Each chapter introduces a new twist in Charlie’s life, and by the end we see just how he falls to the temptation of allying himself with Barnum. You really get to feel for the character by then, because things just keep getting worse for him. Everybody has a breaking point, and Charlie’s breaking point is upon him.
Chee’s artistic style is black and white with lots of shading in each panel. It creates a very distinct atmosphere that complements the black and white in Charlie’s life and it creates the perfect atmosphere for the story as well. I think it is important that issue is not coloured in, because otherwise the impact would just not be there. It would simply be a flashy little story about a man falling to inner temptations. But with the black and white art, the story gains an altogether different vibe, which builds on what it already is. And it is moody, very much so, so that’s another thing working in its favour.
And that cover art by Francesco Francavilla? Simply amazing, as usual.
This is a great story and I’m certainly curious to read more!