REVIEW: TENEMENT #2 by Jeff Lemire (W), Andrea Sorrentino (A), Dave Stewart(A)

TENEMENT #2 from Image Comics, is an absolutely absorbing issue that mixes the mundane reality of urban life and all its complexities, with the overwhelming cosmic indifference of an entity too vast and too unknowable to comprehend.  It is that incomprehension that lends TENEMENT #2 all its strength and power, exemplifying an ability by writer Jeff Lemire to capture the imagination with a vision so horrifying it’s like looking on existence through a film of blood tinged darkness.

TenementArtist Andrea Sorrentino and colourist Dave Stewart are the real stars of  TENEMENT #2.  Jeff Lemire’s overall vision is stunning, but his scripting is little more than serviceable, with some risible dialogue between the young protagonist Isaac and his mother particularly wince inducing.  For sure, Lemire’s ideas permeate the story, infecting the visuals and helping create an uncertain vibe, but the dialogue at times really does come across as clunky and obvious.

It is the art of TENEMENT #2 that digs deep into your skin.  Set in an urban environment, TENEMENT #2 depicts a world largely empty of people.  The stark, almost desaturated world outside the building is full of empty plazas, looming, off kilter buildings, dead trees clawing at a blank sky, over which an ominous omnipresence hangs. Sorrentino is excellent at creating a sterile landscape of straight lines that is always vaguely menacing in the sense that it isn’t a place for people – indeed, if there is any theme that permeates TENEMENT #2, it is that humanity has no place in the world Sorrentino has created.

And while I did say Lemire’s dialogue is somewhat lacking in places, there is no doubting the skillful pacing he brings to this issue, building up to a jaw dropping last couple of pages where everything goes to hell in a handbasket.  The introduction to a broader swathe of characters is expertly done – it is interesting that just about every major character in the story has a partner with which to experience the destabilisation of the world around them.  And Sorrentino helps matters greatly with the realisation of this world, and how off kilter it all is.  The photo realism of the characters is almost too realistic, making the experience of looking at the page just as jarring for the reader as it is for the characters that inhabit it.  Little touches of the artwork in TENEMENT #2 also adds to the odd atmosphere.  The motif of a blowfly appears several times, and the first time is as a print above the bed of one of the characters.  It is a small moment that underscores a larger point which is that there is something fundamentally strange happening to the characters, at the margins of their existence at first, but is at risk of overwhelming them in an instant.

TENEMENT #2 is an issue that infects the reader with its stark, disturbing visuals as much as it does the characters.  The world artist Andrea Sorrentino has created is certainly a memorably disturbing one.  The contrast of the workaday lives and problems of the characters, with the mind bending horror about to descend on them, is typical of the horror genre, exemplified by the storied career of Stephen King.  TENEMENT #2 starts small, but when it goes big, it goes cosmic.

Reviewer score:  4/5

Read TENEMENT #2 by Jeff Lemire (W), Andrea Sorrentino (A), Dave Stewart(A)

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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.