Never judge a book by its cover, wise words indeed especially when referring to Kurt Sutter’s latest violence opera, Sisters of Sorrow. The cover depicts a nun in full traditional habit, but instead of her rosary she is brandishing twin uzi’s with daggers strapped to her legs, a glare of promised vengeance in her eyes and the whole thing is dramatically backlit for optimum effect. Awesome cover, right? However it is a bit misleading. I immediately thought the story would include at least one Catholic killer lurking the convent like a cross between Mother Superior and Elektra waiting for nightfall to spread ultimate absolution to the unrepentant sinners of the city. Although that was not to be the case, the narrative that Kurt Sutter and Courtney Alameda do give us is one of cathartic vengeance and redemptive suffering.
The premiere issue focuses on four women, Dominique, Greta, Misha and Sarah, who have suffered egregious instances of domestic violence and are now living together in a recovery house for battered and abused women. Sutter and Alameda’s characters feel completely real, the dialogue rings true, it conveys their pain and desire to avenge that pain in very human terms that we can all relate to. Having said that, there is still a kind of brutal poetry to the dialogue that brings an operatic quality to the events. The tension builds virtually from the first panel to a climactic crescendo that while satisfying one need for vengeance creates a cabal of retribution to be handed out by these formerly victimized, brutalized and marginalized women; hence the Sisters of Sorrow are born.
Sutter has made a career of creating anti-heroes and anti-heroines that while not being entirely reprehensible definitely employ questionable tactics applied with a certain absence of morality and abundance of self-righteousness, Sons of Anarchy particularly comes to mind. He goes beyond the ‘working class hero’ trope to address that dark character that given similar extreme circumstances could be any one of us. The character of Eli is particularly intriguing, part shadowy figure, part physical trainer, part guru, I can’t wait to see more of this guy.
The plot progresses at the speed of light, taking just enough time for exposition and foundation building between action sequences. The pages fly by from one brutal shooting to an exquisitely rendered SUV/ motorcycle chase that rushes the plot headlong into a white-knuckled tension filled finale. Hyeonjin Kim does a fantastic job of filling every panel with kinetic energy intensifying the breakneck pace with some amazing line work. Whenever a story relies rather heavily on violence there is a thin line an artist must walk between gross-out graphic depictions of heads coming apart and the more subtle, yet equally shocking tactful renderings of such images, Kim seems to have mastered the latter of these techniques. Sure the violence here is over the top at times but it is also somehow compelling.
Overall this is a solid first issue. The vengeance tale is one that has been told a thousand times and will be told ten thousand more because it appeals to us on a very base level; an eye for an eye. It’s a trope that has been with us for as long as stories have been told. Sutter and Alameda don’t reinvent the wheel here, but they do a solid job of introducing a brand new property that holds much potential to expand on the wheel, in this case that wheel is attached to a speeding motorcycle ridden by a Sister of Sorrow. 3/5
Sisters of Sorrow #1 (of 4)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writers: Kurt Sutter, Courtney Alameda
Artist: Hyeonjin Kim