Cold Heat Special #5
Frank Santoro and Ryan Cecil Smith, writers/artists
PictureBox Inc., 2008
As if in response to my questioning if there’s steak beneath Cold Heat‘s sizzle, along comes CHS #5, which reads like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road as filtered through Dave Kiersh’s after-school special aesthetic. Set after some unspecified “bomb” has made refugees of regular CH heroine Castle and her aging father, it concerns Castle’s search for food for her starving dad, and how far she and others are willing to go for it. The centerpiece sequences are harrowing depictions of the killing and attempted killing of dogs for sustenance; the horror and heartbreak of gaining an animal’s trust for the express purpose of betraying it, the core of all human carnivorousness, is laid bare in unflinching detail. As always when I come across depictions of animal cruelty in altcomix I have to wonder if the point is shock value or a genuine consideration of the issues at stake, but the mournful tone Smith lends to his figurework coupled with the comparatively simple and straightforward layouts provided by Santoro give me the sense that we may well be dealing with the latter rather than the former here. That’s kind of a hefty price point, though, so make sure you’re up for it.