It’s not often a comic leaves me speechless but Peter Simeti did it with The Chair. I got into the series late, during the re-release newsprint edition and now I’m a little sad that I missed the original run ten years ago. Perhaps if I hadn’t had my head buried so deep in Marvel (to my eventual disappointment on its own) I would have had a chance to experience this. The book is dark and suspenseful, and touches on some of the most disturbing aspects of humanity’s capacity for evil. Simeti takes our initial expectations and twists them all up. Our perspective of the main character, Sullivan, is not at all the same at the beginning as it is at the end. The lines between what is real and imagined quickly become blurred through the mini-series.
Originally published in 2008 The Chair has seen a handful of re-releases, including a graphic novel and newsprint editions. It’s the story if Richard Sullivan, a Death Row inmate charged with crimes he denies committing. All around him his fellow inmates are being tortured and killed by the guards, led by the warden, Josef Enrik. Sullivan is desperate to find a way out of his prison before it’s too late. As his world falls apart Richard becomes more hysterical and we see the rifts as he struggles to deal with what is happening.
Kevin Christensen’s art is the perfect accompaniment to Simeti’s tragic tale. It’s not often that you see a team produce a book which looks like both were working side-by-side. The panels are dark, helped by the black and white palette. Reading it you can almost feel the oppressive weight of a dark dungeon pushing down on you. The desperation to escape, to get away from such a place, can be felt by the reader through the pencils. Coupled with the overpowering inks the book’s imagery is excellent.
The series develops well through the four issues. We’re given a perspective on Sullivan’s world that is shaken throughout the arc. The story builds to an unexpected, and tragic end that left me staring at the last page a few moments absorbing what I had just read. Simeti explores aspects of humanity that most people try to avoid. The darkness our minds can create to deal with trauma and how that darkness can manifest and control us. Without a doubt the final pages of the series pay of in a heart-breaking and spectacular way.
If you haven’t read The Chair yet you can still pick it up, and you should. The newsprint edition should still be in your local comic shop or through Alterna’s site. There’s also a movie based on the comic that was recently released and I hope to see it soon. Give the book a read if you enjoy the dark and troubling stories that make you think about the things hiding in the dark corners of our minds.