Writer Alex De Campi has been a name bubbling up for the last year or so in comics. As a woman who was once an investment banker and spends part of her time as a film director, her comics work has been relatively under the radar for fans that are accustomed to follow the DC/Marvel/Image Comics industrial complex. This is despite having been nominated for an Eisner for work that came out ten years ago, her comics writing has been relatively minimal and on the fringe’s of the industry, working on Manga, French comics, web series ect But De Campi is becoming harder to ignore and that’s to comics own benefit. She’s already shown what she could do in the work for hire front on Sensation Comics & the delightfully macabre
Archie Vs Predator and for the last two years she’s been crafting wonderfully campy exploitation fiction in her Dark Horse series Grind House. But what feels like her most personal and thoughtful work is No Mercy, a brutally real horror story about first world kids getting a crash course in third world problems.
No Mercy follows a group of teenagers bound for Princeton University traveling in South America for charity work when there bus rolls off a cliff, leaving them stranded in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by hungry coyotes. This is the genius of No Mercy, it’s terrifying for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with anything supernatural, it’s brutal violence is effective because it’s so real, it’s a type of horror that could happen to almost anybody. The almost anybody is the key here because De Campi’s character’s are brutally honest modern archetypes of adolescence. There’s a brush of slasher flick formulaic to them, but it’s accentuated by the hints of vulnerability and impulsiveness. DeCampi understands this age, how they aren’t fully formed even though they think they are and it creates a strong buy in for the reader. Artist Carla Speed McNeal accentuates the mood by deftly illustrating the raw violence, fear and reaction from the participants. It’s cartoony and round in a way that’s almost cute until it no longer can be and once the action kicks in, the work comes alive and ups the stories pace to push the level of fear on the reader.
No Mercy is one of the best new horror comics because it eschews or upends so many of the genre’s tropes to instead, create a type of horror that is grounded in reality. It doesn’t get any more frightening then that.