THE CHAIR #4 by Peter Simeti and Kevin Christensen
THE CHAIR #4 is a magnificent end to an incredible series. The twists and turns continue, as we reach the conclusion to this psychologically haunting prison character piece.
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An Ending Worth Waiting For

Alterna Comics‘ four issue mini-series THE CHAIR comes to its thrilling end with THE CHAIR #4. In the final issue, writer Peter Simeti and artist Kevin Christensen change their previous approaches to this story.

THE CHAIR #4 is an overhaul of everything we thought the series could be. Changes in art, character building, and narrative structure all reinforce the heightened stakes in this phenomenal issue. Overall, this is a fitting end for Alterna’s experimental death-row centered series.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

Double Twist

THE CHAIR #4 comes on the heels of a massive spoiler from the last issue. Previously, the series centered on a simple premise. Richard Sullivan was an innocent man on death row who was being tortured by a sadistic warden. Simeti let this story unfold as a first-person, diary-esque character piece. However, in the last issue, we learn that everything Simeti provided us was really a lie. Shockingly, Richard Sullivan is actually a sociopathic serial killer who is being held in a completely average prison. This twist worked well because Simeti heightened the usual unreliable narrator gimmick to a new degree.

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Unfortunately, this issue features a twist that is interesting but doesn’t hit as hard. While the new revelation does allow for a series of emotional scenes, it feels overshadowed. The twist propels the story along in a new direction, but I think that it could have been better spaced out. Structurally the back-to-back twists fell a little flat, but thematically it was spot on. Otherwise, Simeti concludes this issue in a string of scenes that really do tug at the heartstrings.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

Pity Party

THE CHAIR is such an experimental series because almost every issue brings something new to the table. Simeti’s greatest strength as a writer is the ability to change your opinion about a character almost instantly. The previous issues have portrayed a sympathetic portrait of a man we now know to be a monster. However, Simeti pivots yet again and manages to have Richard finish the series as a sympathetic figure.

Shifts in Perspective

As Richard lashes out in a violent rampage against the guards, we see the character’s duality. He is both a hateful evil being and also a human being tortured by his own mind.  In the best sequence of this comic, we see a remorseless, vile Richard become sympathetic in an instant. As he is being carried to the electric chair, we get a final POV shot into his mind and see his twisted worldview. His view of the ordinary world is demonic and threatening, despite his surroundings. Simeti leaves us with a central question as to whether Richard is truly evil or just a slave to his own diseased brain.

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Back to Reality

The artwork in THE CHAIR #4 is much more structured and rigid than in previous issues. Previously, the artwork was frenetic and unevenly sketched. Now, the book flows more like a traditional comic-book rather than a hand-drawn manifesto. Christensen’s layout and style shift reflect his versatility as an illustrator. In one issue, he moves from a wild-art style to a controlled, classic one.

While visually stunning, this shift is also thematically important. THE CHAIR #4 is the only issue where the reader can actually trust what is occurring. It’s essentially a POV free issue, where we see Richard Sullivan’s world for what it truly is. The prison in Richard’s head is shadowy and menacing while in reality, it is just a municipal building. The warden is not a distorted, evil vampire figure but rather just an average joe. This redesign helps to reinforce the finality of this issue. Christensen’s art gives us a valuable peek behind the subjective curtain of Sullivan’s distorted mind.

Image courtesy of Alterna Comics.

A Fitting End

Simeti never really structured THE CHAIR as a narrative. Rather, it is a four-part character piece. There is not much action in each issue. Instead, Simeti provides us with a tiny dose of reality so that we can better understand the events. The final issue is the perfect progression of this theme.

THE CHAIR #4 was such a satisfying conclusion because it delivers on the books central premise: this is a story about a man waiting for the electric chair, and somehow this waiting becomes exciting. The book simulates the frenzy of uncontrollable thoughts, anxieties, and doubts that plague a person simply waiting for a terrible fate. Simeti did not undercut this theme with a cheap prison escape or a goofy deus ex machina. Being trapped inside an anxiety-ridden mind is scary, and THE CHAIR #4 hammers in that point.

Final Thoughts on THE CHAIR #4

Overall, THE CHAIR #4 is a contemplative and dour character-piece. This is not the bombastic finale we expect in comic books. Instead, Simeti treats us to a slow-burning psychological thriller. THE CHAIR is one of my favorite series of 2017, and it was an incredible opportunity to be able to review all four issues. This series is also a testament to why we should support independent comic book publishers. Simeti and Christensen’s unique, experimental vision is what many of us miss when we only focus on the mainstream super-hero fare.

One Comment

  1. Jingle Paul The Way (@ZZoMBiE13)

    December 24, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Great review! I agree that The Chair has been a really good read. I’m eager for several of the Alternacomics books coming out in 2018 too. The XII and Sonitus to name a couple. Thanks for this!


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