Something happened in the mines under Woodsburgh, and things have been different—strange—since then. A creature the town calls the Devil of Woodsburgh stalks the streets, necessitating a curfew. And now a mysterious woman and her butler have arrived, asking questions about the mine. Death seems to follow them. More darkness is about to fall on the poor city of Woodsburgh.
Mercy is a classically Lovecraftian/cosmic horror story; we have a mysterious newcomer, hapless townsfolk, and a door that should not have been opened. Accordingly, the art is lush and detailed, not shying away from the moments of humanity or monstrosity. This also serves as a content warning: there are corpses, gore, body horror, and physical violence that’s sometimes pretty graphic. There are a few sex scenes, nudity, and discussion of sex work as well.
The art is really sumptuous in this comic, though historically accurate it is not. The character designs are distinct, and I appreciate that there are depictions of people across classes and people of color, though I have mixed feelings about showing Betsy with a full natural afro hairstyle (again, historical accuracy is light). Mirka Andolfo is great at establishing a feeling of locations and movement in her art, and Mercy is no exception. The style of this comic does remind me of Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika, and I’m not sure if that’s purposeful but it’s certainly appropriate.
The writing, however, is not as wonderful. Part of this is because Mercy is a translated work, and even the best, most thoughtfully translated piece, will have some awkward moments, but also Andolfo’s writing is not her strong suit, from my experience of other works. The premise is solid, and the initial third of the comic follow along fairly logically, but when the action starts to pick up, I started to get more confused and lost. I won’t go into details because that would get into spoiler territory. That said, there were quite a few plot twists that took me by surprise in a good way and kept me guessing as to how the whole thing would end.
I’ve mentioned it a few times in this review, but the biggest problem I have with Mercy is the lack of historical accuracy. This is probably not something that will bother a lot of readers who haven’t spent too much time learning about the Victorian era, and in all fairness to Andolfo I don’t know that an exact year is ever mentioned in the comic. But sometimes it feels like a caricature of American society at this time, a little overblown and unrealistic. There’s also a kind of odd undercurrent of Christianity as seen through Rory, the child character. I don’t know enough about religious practices in the 1800s to comment on whether it’s accurate or not, but it sometimes felt like an unnecessary reach to make things more obscene.
While Mercy isn’t the most complex story out there, it is still an enjoyable read. It’s a great addition to an adult graphic novel collection to get more diverse horror options. While steampunk has died down, interest in Lovecraft or Lovecraft-inspired horror keeps popping up as more adaptations come out in film and television, not to mention novels and podcasts in the genre. It’s also a great introduction to Andolfo’s work, and one of the most “safe for work” options as she tends to be somewhat explicit in her original comics.
Mirka Andolfo’s Mercy: The Fair Lady, The Frost, and The Fiend
By Mirka Andolfo
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: M
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)