PURGATORY by Don Juan Manchez III with illustrations by Anubisazp
This potentially deep narrative uses the concept of purgatory to its utmost potential, showing how those who were neither good nor bad are now forced to live out the rest of their lives.
85 %
A spiritual journey of self-discovery
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Though purgatory was more or less created as a ploy to swindle money from devoted Catholics, it has quite a bit of cultural staying power. At its core, purgatory is a place where people’s souls repent for past sins before entering heaven. The webcomic PURGATORY, written by Don Juan Manchez III with art by Anubisazp, plays with this concept. The webcomic does a fantastic job of encompassing the traditional theme of purgatory with flawed yet human characters.

PURGATORY or The Drudgery of The Dead

As the comic exists today, much of the plot of PURGATORY still remains a mystery. So far, the webcomic contains only 2 chapters, which primarily focus on the afterlife of Ryan. He goes to work and lives with another man named Miles as they simply wait out their afterlives. One day, Ryan runs into a little girl that is being chased by other denizens of purgatory. And yet, because of the shortness of PURGATORY, it’s hard to say definitively whether or not this will lead anywhere.

Image courtesy of Don Juan Manchez III.

Still, what exists of PURGATORY so far does peak my curiosity. While I still find myself confused as to the nature of the little girl, the relationships between the other souls (particularly Ryan and Miles’ relationship) are quite compelling. Ryan is a much younger soul than Miles, who has lived in purgatory for some time at the start of the comic. Miles talks with Ryan about how he came to purgatory and the life he lived before dying. This interaction changed my perspective of the comic entirely. Before this, I felt lukewarm on the comic as a whole. However, this interaction showed the writer’s willingness to tackle the regrets and anxieties that one might assume spirits would have upon dying. It highlighted a genuine emotional depth that I hope will continue throughout the series.

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Despite genuinely enjoying the first couple chapters of PURGATORY, the story is incomplete. Although a lot of plot points get set up, readers will have to wait for the follow through.

Live Like You’re Dying

I found it immediately gripping that the creators chose to set this comic in purgatory. Of all the places in the Catholic canon, this location is ostensibly the “middle place.” Unlike Hell, there’s no clear definition of what should go on here. There are no firey lava pits, demons torturing souls or cavernous structures that go on for eternity. As such, most depictions of purgatory show bits of suffering, but for the most part, it’s rather poorly defined. The best version to go off of is Dante’s take on purgatory in The Divine Comedy.

However, in this comic, the souls live in a cosmopolitan city. People work, watch television, even do drugs. This version of purgatory mirrors our own reality, as if the comic tries to imply that there’s really no difference in living or dying. Yet, at the same time, it appears to hold the same place as Dante’s and other scholars have — it’s a place to restore one’s soul, learn from their past.

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When Miles talks about his life, he seems to understand where he went wrong. He recognizes that his choice to follow his older brother and to do street art may have hurt people, including his mother whom he now desperately searches for. The souls in PURGATORY seem to reflect on the lives they lived, and how they could have done things differently to make them better. In this liminal space, they can still change for the better.

The Art of GORILLAZ But in Comics

When I saw the character designs, I immediately thought of Jamie Hewlett’s art, like his work for Gorillaz and TANK GIRL. The way Anubisazp draws calls back to Hewlett’s form, at once merging insanity and simplicity that’s rather satisfying. Yet, Anudisazp keeps the human forms distinctly human, which is odd. Souls in and of themselves don’t necessarily have to take on a human shape. However, this creative decision does fit with the theme of purgatory. After all, if a soul might find redemption in this place, they should maintain a part of their humanity.

Image courtesy of Don Juan Manchez III.

For what’s been released of the comic, PURGATORY shows off a potentially vibrant afterlife filled with interesting characters and mystery. It also maintains the essence of its namesake despite the webcomic’s fresh take on the setting. With inherently flawed people as the main cast, the creators give themselves a chance to show a true redemption arc in the literal religious sense. It’s a great start to what promises to be a dramatic dive into the spiritual realm of the in-between place of the afterlife.

You can read the first two chapters of PURGATORY here!

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