THE CHAIR #2 by Peter Simeti and Kevin Christensen
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE CHAIR #2 is a perfect follow-up to the first issue. It challenges everything our death row bound protagonist thought he believed.
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A Grisly Fate
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When someone is condemned to death, what does it matter how they are treated? This is the central question of THE CHAIR #2. The haunting yet pulpy comic series continues to explore questions of morality and corporal punishment. This issue forgoes much of the first issue’s horror inspirations. Instead, THE CHAIR #2 spends most of its time waxing philosophical about big issues facing our prison system today. Writer Peter Simeti and artist Kevin Christensen have developed a slow-burning, psychological exploration that raises some big questions.

READ: In case you missed it, here is our review of THE CHAIR #1!

THE CHAIR #2
Image courtesy of Alterna Comics

In the Mind of a Killer

Sullivan, the wrongfully convicted death row inmate, is still trapped in a prison viciously run by the Warden. In this issue, the Warden begins torturing Sullivan in the hopes of pushing him past the breaking point before he reaches the titular electric chair. Besides Sullivan’s torture, there is not much plot development in THE CHAIR #2. Instead, Simeti looks inward and points our attention towards Sullivan’s newfound realizations.

THE CHAIR #2
Image courtesy of Alterna Comics

In the last issue, his doomed situation left Sullivan unfazed. Bound to his horrific fate, Sullivan was in a perpetual zombie state as he waited for his impending doom. Now, however, Sullivan must deal with a non-existential threat. The constant physical pain is enough to snap our apathetic protagonist out of his lull. When it was child murderers and rapists getting tortured, Sullivan was unsure whether the Warden’s extra doses of pain mattered. However, when he comes face-to-face with real torture — the Warden pulling his shoulders out of their sockets — he begins singing a different tune.

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Solitary Hero

In terms of action, there is not much in THE CHAIR #2. The actual plot of the book is straightforward and lean. There are no side characters or B-stories. The story is only concerned with Sullivan and his fate, which helps to suck the reader in. By being so laser-focused, Simeti can really dig into Sullivan’s psychology. There are no distractions and no breaks. It is definitely a tense read.

The majority of the story takes place with Sullivan alone in his cell. The moral questions reverberate around Sullivan — literally. The text in this issue is not confined to boxes or bubbles. Sullivan’s  thoughts appear scrawled on his cell. This stylistic tool really heightens the confinement Sullivan is facing. His thoughts are his prison, with the words slowly closing in on him. Sullivan thought he could just ignore the injustices in the prison and take his punishment. However, his moral compass is spinning out of control. His inner thoughts are pushing outward, and he cannot ignore these deeper feelings. As much as Sullivan wants to recede into a lobotomized state, his former humanity keeps pulling him out.

As for the character himself, he is slowly emerging from his stoic cocoon. It has been a subtle transition, but Sullivan is beginning to become more relatable as a protagonist. This issue sees him move from a closed, emotionless stoic into a more expressive and depressed character. This is evident by the greater number of Sullivan’s inner thoughts and emotions with which Simeti provides us. It is a promising change for the character. Hopefully, in future issues, we will be able to learn more about what makes Sullivan tick.

Is that Rick?

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There was one extremely strange aspect to this issue that stuck out. The villainous Warden looks exactly like Rick Sanchez from RICK AND MORTY. The hair, the lab coat, the spittle on his mouth: they are all there. It definitely could not be an accident. The only difference is The Warden’s goggles, which he eventually takes off. RICK AND MORTY is a great and very, very popular show. I am not sure if Simeti and Christensen thought that no one would notice or if they had a general “mad scientist” vibe in mind and just fell into this by accident. It makes sense because Rick is based on Doc Brown, who is the OG mad scientist.

This choice would be fine if the Warden’s character were fleshed out and distinguishable. However, the Warden is a pretty one-dimensional and straightforward evil, torture-loving villain. So there is nothing to hook onto that lets the reader look past his design. However, despite his resemblance to Rick and lack of character, the Warden’s presence does not take away from this great issue. It’s just a little strange. Which makes sense, because this book is strange. RICK AND MORTY have popped up in numerous other Intellectual Properties, so it is not impossible that this is some kind of weird crossover.

Surprisingly Gore-Free

For a comic with a horror movie counterpart and very gory promotional images, THE CHAIR #2 is not much of a splatter-fest. Christensen’s art is pretty tame when it comes to the torture scenes and violent imagery. Despite my usual tendency towards over-the-top violence in comics, I thought this was a great choice. Simeti and Christensen focus most of the issue on Sullivan’s inner struggle. Tossing up some violent imagery for the sake of shock-value would distract from the point of this issue. The real meat here is the psychological torture that Sullivan is imposing on himself.

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THE CHAIR #2
Image courtesy of Alterna Comics

Christensen’s art continues to take on the look and feel of a prisoner’s frantic diary. The entire comic looks like he quickly etched the drawings with a dull pencil on notebook paper. It works for the story, but in some areas, the art can be a little flat and confusing. It can also be somewhat distracting, but it really goes with what the book is going for. This is an impressionistic, first-person account of Sullivan’s experience. It makes sense to have his memory literally blurred with some faded, scratchy images.

FINAL THOUGHTS on THE CHAIR #2

THE CHAIR #2 hits hard with a deeply thought-provoking exploration of not only the nature of prison but whether or not humans can mask their morality. This series continues to surprise me, and I cannot wait for the next issue. I hope that this creative team can keep digging deeper into Sullivan, and hopefully flesh out the Warden’s character a bit more. It would be a shame to have such an interesting protagonist without an equally engaging foe.

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