By Michael J. Uhlman, Brian Wasiak, Jon C. Scheide, Robert Rath & various (Shinebox Press)
The eternally meandering demarcation line between justice and vengeance has been a favoured theme of drama since storytelling began and is never going to grow stale or overused.
Such tales are always about addressing fundamental universal wrongs which impact on our core values, but they generally come seasoned by topical outrages, such as this moody and compelling opening act in what reads to me like a movie or TV miniseries in the making.
Altered Boys is the brainchild of Hollywood insiders Michael J. Uhlman, Brian Wasiak & Jon C. Scheide, brought to vivid life by illustrator Robert Rath.
It tackles, with cathartic venom and a hunger for redress, one of society’s most vile and iniquitous scandals: the historical and ongoing betrayal and abuse of the innocent faithful by their spiritual – and moral – leaders.
With the current global backlash against religions that value their own wealth and reputations over the harm (some) priests inflict upon the most vulnerable of their charges, here’s an honest and understandable reaction, couched in the trappings of a cop drama and conspiracy thriller.
Once upon a time in Boston there were four boys. It was 1984 and Michael, Mark, Christian and Billy were just your average best friends with their entire lives ahead of them enjoying nothing but high hopes and bold expectations. They were also altar boys at the local Catholic church where the formidable Father Fitzgerald officiatedâ€¦
Today, the long-separated pals are attending Billy’s funeral. It’s a fractious ill-tempered reunion and there’s plenty of guilt to go around about what happened to him – and them – back then. Even more over how he ended upâ€¦
Michael can’t let it go and, displaying an unnerving set of strategies and skills, tracks down Fitzgerald, easily penetrating many devious layers of obfuscation the Church provided when they quietly relocated the paedophilic monster.
Their reunion and confrontation is short and very finalâ€¦
In the aftermath, Michael enjoys a quiet reconciliation breakfast with Mark and Christian before leaving town. He then has a slanging match with his own superiors and starts lying to his bossesâ€¦
In Washington DC, FBI Director Rivera has a visitor. The Cardinal has received a disturbing file he doesn’t want but needs to share. Catholic priests are dying.
Many are committing what doctrine and faith considers a mortal sin and taking their own lives whilst others are just being shot in their homes.
It might not be clear to the authorities what’s going on, but His Eminence knows what all these priests have in commonâ€¦
What nobody yet realises is that it’s not just Catholics or even simply Christian clerics at risk. Something very methodical and efficient is excising deviant officiants of every faith: those who betray their flocks and predate on their congregations whilst relying on their superiors’ silence to safeguard them.
Now person or persons unknown are using the Churches’ own abominable cowardice in covering up scandals to mask an unswerving elimination of the unholyâ€¦
Moreover, Michael’s enigmatic bosses are slowly realising their top operative is also off the rails and ministering to his own agendaâ€¦
To Be Continuedâ€¦
Sharing an edgy tone with Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River and elements of both Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight and Amy Berg’s Deliver Us from Evil, this potent exploration of monsters and champions seeks to redefine notions of Good and Evil whilst telling a darkly gripping story of timeless appeal. It’s working so farâ€¦
On a personal note: Having been raised Catholic myself before rationality overwhelmed me, it’s an issue that has long personally aggrieved me and shamed every good and decent person I know (as it should everybody on Earth). It’s good to see mainstream adventure comics seriously addressing the issues in mature – if necessarily bombastic – manner. The second volume is in production as we speak and hopefully it won’t be long before we can see the investigation proceed in Altered Boys: The Book of Rebeccaâ€¦
Â© 2018 Shinebox Press.
Altered Boys: The Book of Billy is available digitally on Comixology and hard copies can be obtained via the website.