Reviewed by Taylor Hoffman // @taylorcheckers
Issue 3 of Pisces reveals very interesting twists in the mystery of Dillon Carpenter and his space adventure. Every issue we piece together bits of his life through a stunning artistic portrayal of PTSD and its insidious manifestations. This time, the horror that we’ve witnessed in the shadows becomes more personal and straightforward. The enemy isn’t hiding in the wild or lurking behind anything anymore. Instead, it’s in the people around him, it’s in his skin, and it’s in his mind. It’s an infectious assault from all sides now. We’ve seen into the depths of space from a disadvantaged point of total wonder and now we get closer to what he’s searching for in the stars.
WRITTEN BY: Kurtis J Wiebe
ART BY: Johnnie Christmas
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
RELEASE: July 8, 2015
After four years of being off-duty, Dillon visits his co-pilot Henry from his days in Vietnam –– the same one he left to be captured and tortured as seen in the first issue. Though it’s a supposedly new start for him in Houston, he’s still lost and directionless in a monotonous job that dulls the pain for a while, but nothing he’s accomplished at home has been fulfilling. He meets up with his war buddy who is now in a steady relationship and seems to have most of his life in a semblance of security, though obviously having sex with underaged girls on the local cheerleading squad in an attempt to relive the glory days of being a football star. Despite any efforts to the contrary, everything Dillon sees of that life is hypocritical and just as depressing as his own. He’s filled with regret and sickness over surviving and more upset that his life has come to a point of constant disillusionment and hallucination. Johnnie Christmas captures the classic 70s vibe that Henry so desperately clings onto as a sense of self as the backdrop for this issue and it clearly shows just how out of place Dillon is at every point on Earth. It’s not until we’re in any point of space or imagination or somewhere in-between that he is fully present. However, it’s not pleasant.
There’s a sickness that is pushing toward the surface of Dillon’s reality and finally we’re getting closer to that David Cronenberg body horror that we were promised. Strange markings on the neck become disgusting nodes of rotting flesh as monstrous bloody buboes pierce through the skin like hungry worms. They look as if they’re eating him alive and every page that has these images makes everything feel like watching The Fly in slow motion. Dillon’s decaying physically and emotionally; his delusions are becoming grander and more disturbing, especially in a sex scene that turns horribly disgusting very, very quickly. Christmas’ art shines in these scenes because the grossness is still beautiful in twisted visions that are uncomfortable, but impossible to ignore. Wiebe has done an amazing job keeping just the right rhythm in his writing that showcases those horrid moments. Just like PTSD flashbacks, they’re sudden and unpredictable, and the amount of care put into making them seem so real is an astounding accomplishment.
All of these random scenes are starting to come together as a more complete picture that shows a new view of life in its various and deadly forms. While there’s nothing redeemable or remarkable about Dillon besides his piloting skills, he’s a fascinating trainwreck that’s still searching for something and the story has become mission to find purpose. Pisces has many interpretations, it’s a sign of unfortunate events and deep mystical power, a form used to escape from danger, an abomination of emotions, a dying god, or people drawn toward Jupiter, Neptune, or the moon, among many other possibilities. Whatever combination of astrological, religious, and mythological meaning, Pisces is a work of art that showcases a complex dualistic approach to understanding PTSD though horror and space.