REVIEW: The Deviant #5 by James Tynion (W) and Joshua Hixson (A)

A good way to lead your comic reading life is to run, not walk, to the nearest comic book store when a new series or issue written by James Tynion IV is released.  The man is a writing fool (or whatever term the youngsters use for ‘genius’).  Series that captured my attention, and should capture yours, include The Department of Truth, The Closet, and Universal Monsters: Dracula.  Add a new series to that list – The Deviant.

The Deviant #5The Deviant #5 is one of those stories that creeps up on you at first, before grabbing you by the throat and throttling the heck out of you.  It starts in one place, then zigs and zags until you realise you’ve ended up in a place so devastating it’s hard to work out how to get back to wherever you started – assuming that’s even possible.

Because The Deviant #5 opens up new vistas in this series about Michael Schmitz, a gay man attempting to uncover the truth fifty years after a series of killings that occurred in 1972.  The majority of the story is told in flashback, to 1999, when Michael was a boy and first encountered the story of the Deviant Killer, a man jailed for the murder of two teenage boys back in the 1970s.

The Deviant #5 is simply spellbinding.  It opens with Michael and his friend checking out a serial killer site devoted to the Deviant Killer.  At first, Michael’s friend has the upper hand – the way he puts Michael down, and his use of homophobic slurs swiftly establishes, at least at first, who is in charge.  But the power dynamic subtly changes – we see Michael, already wrestling with his own sexuality, become enraptured by the photographs uploaded to the site the Deviant Killer took of his victims.  The scene then moves to the two boys checking out a gay porn site, and Michael’s conflicted, almost tortured reaction to the images.  The way artist Joshua Hixson places his panels, and uses close ups of Michael’s face to suggest how his attitude changes from confusion to intent, is masterful in conveying mood.

After this, The Deviant #5 takes the two boys to the abandoned, condemned home where the Deviant Killer lived.  Little more than a stripped, graffitied shell, the house clearly unnerves Michael’s friend, while Michael himself, now firmly in control, is enraptured to be there.  The story doesn’t come out and say it, but it seems to me, at least, that Michael identifies with the killer – insofar as both see themselves as outsiders in a world that rejects both of them, for their choices, and how they identify themselves.  Before the flashback sequence ends, we see a scene so shocking, so upsetting, that it sets the tone for the rest of the issue, and begins to make us question Michael and who he truly is.

I can’t say enough good things about The Deviant #5 – the artwork is subtle yet packs a punch when required.  Tynion’s writing just creeps up on the reader, and the way he flips the power dynamic between the homophobic jock and Michael’s more sensitive, conflicted character is something every writer reading this review should check out and learn from.  The Deviant #5 demonstrates that great comic book storytelling is on par with any other form of fiction writing out there, and is often better.

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Robert Mammone

Robert Mammone

Robert Mammone reviewed comics for two years for the Major Spoilers website and has reviewed DVD and blu ray releases for Impulse Gamer since 2013. Reviewing aside, Rob dabbles in writing genre fiction.

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