Written by Keith A. Miller
Art by Ian Gabriel
Published by Rosarium Publishing
Most of us like to think that only certain people go to prison. I remember talking to a student I had when I worked in a prison and she stated that when she was young she believed that only bad people went to prison until she was convicted and sent to one. She realized that just like society, prison is filled with people from all walks of life and worldviews. Many of us assume that only monsters inhabit that space. Much of the entertainment we consume informs that narrative. What Manticore does is demonstrate that the monsters are usually not the inmates.
As much as I love comic books, many of my favorite comics are the non super hero ones. As a reader, I don't know what I am getting until a few issues in. Manticore does the same. It has a slow build up and then punches you in the face in the end and sets the tone for the subsequent issues.
We are introduced to the cast of characters by a new inmate to the Pensacola Federal Prison Camp as he is walked to his cell by a correction officer. The reader is introduced to a 6 dangerous men whose origins are as complicated as anyone else.
Usually, we find that stories of prison life is filled with physical violence. Manticore demonstrates how violence doesn't have to be physical. We learn that many of the inmates are drugged against their wills. While the protagonist is threatened by the unwritten rules of the prison community, we learn that the overall system puts them in the position to enforce this code. I think this is the best part of the story. Violence can come in many forms that are not physical. Unlike other forms of entertainment that deal with prison life, Manticore does not glorify any of the violence.
Another thing I enjoy about Manticore is the artwork. I wish more comics were drawn in black and white. Like photographs, black and white comics seem to capture more emotion and detail. I am completely unfamiliar with Ian Gabriel but I am already becoming a fan. While the story is focused on dialogue, Gabriel does a great job illustrating the tension and the repression that is clear in the writing.
As I have stated Manticore has me hooked since I did not know what I was going to get. I believe any reader would feel the same. For a first issue into an unfamiliar story, Miller did a great job putting it all together. I look forward to reading the subsequent issues and learning more about the narrator and the characters in the story.