Taking on the tragic events brought on by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans is daunting for anyone, but trying to do so in a comic book is probably way more complicated. You would think that it wouldn’t work out very well but somehow writer Mark Landry created a very thought-provoking and captivating comic in Bloodthirsty #1, out now via Titan Comics.
Bloodthirsty starts off with a bang by taking readers back to 2005 when Coast Guardsman Virgil LaFleur is rescuing those stranded by the flooding when he realizes that his parents are still unaccounted for. While he attempts to swim back to the surface with his mother he sees something terrible in the depths, bodies with throats slit, blood seeping out of the ghastly wounds. It’s clear that something’s amiss, and what he sees changes him forever. Readers are then brought back to the present to a very jaded and angry Virgil who is still looking for answers.
Virgil condemns not only the city and state officials for the way they mishandled the rescue efforts after Katrina wrought havoc on the city, but the greedy corporations and so-called generous tycoons and businessmen who swooped in to act as saviors when they really wanted to take advantage of the destruction to line their pockets. It’s hard to read Bloodthirsty #1 and not think of specific people, and though Landry doesn’t mention them by name–he opted to use fictional names and characters–you probably know who Virgil, and by extension Landry, is talking about. I was really impressed with this, especially because I remember Katrina all too well. And Landry proves that comics are and can be a very appropriate medium for provocative ideas and critiques about what’s happening in the world.
To be honest, I was surprised that Landry was a Caucasian man writing from the standpoint of Virgil, a mixed race man with a black mother and white father. You might think this is irrelevant, but as a female geek of color, I was overjoyed because it shows a level of consciousness that isn’t always present in media today when it comes to minorities, especially the ignored voices of the poor and disenfranchised in New Orleans during and after Katrina. There are other characters of color in Bloodthirsty #1, and Landry is remarkably respectful yet honest when writing them, which was also impressive. Virgil is a hero we can all relate to. He has seen awful things, and he is troubled. He has experienced a staggering amount of loss, and he still won’t back down. That’s a hero we can all aspire to be, and we don’t have to be rich like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, or superhuman like Superman or Spider-Man.
There is something amiss in New Orleans, and when people start disappearing Virgil believes that Katrina was a cover for something far worse than the destruction of life and property by a natural disaster. The villains in the book are devilish and ruthless. Humans are nothing but chattel, and I suspect that they find it easy to kill poor people of color who are left homeless and destitute because of Katrina and the greedy politicians and companies that turned a blind eye. By the time I got to the end and it became evident what Virgil will have to deal with, I was enraptured. Smart, refreshingly honest, with a good dose of horror to boot? Shut up and take my money, Titan Comics! The only thing I hate is that I have to wait for the second issue.
Artist Ashley Marie Witter did a bang up job on the artwork, with incredible attention to detail in several key panels that really brought home the gravity of the disaster and the grisly nature of what’s happening in the present. The characters are really well drawn out, and Witter really does an outstanding job of rendering New Orleans in all its mystery and noir-ish glamour.
I cannot wait for Bloodthirsty #2…