This article, and the first issue of The Discipline, contain discussions of sexual assault and violence.
This comic, a new series from Image Comics, has been getting a lot of attention lately for its cover art and content. The cover features a woman being undressed, seemingly against her will as she looks frightened, by a disembodied demonic hand. The art is gaining attention because it is featured prominently on the Sunday entrance badges for Emerald City Comic Con. Readers, retailers, and con-goers alike are facing uncomfortable interactions with the cover art, which does not bode well for the content of the book.
Unfortunately, for those concerned with sexual assault and non-consensual activity, the content of the comic does not improve the situation. Upon reading this issue, we are faced not only with a strange fantasy of sexual assault and occult violence, but also a weak, confusing story and art that is both underwhelming and disturbing. There are many readers, myself included, who are not at all opposed to horror, kink, and creepy occult nuances in comics. It can be and has been done very well. This book, however, misses the mark and can leave readers feeling uncomfortable, confused, and often disturbed.
The focus of the first issue is on the main character, Melissa. Melissa is a hollow character- portrayed primarily as a weak, sex-starved trophy wife. She seems less like a main character and more like a device to further the sexual fantasy of the feeble plotline. She is young, thin, rich, and weak-willed. She talks with her dog on jogs through the park while ignoring her absentee millionaire husband. She has no obvious character or development, and exists within this first issue purely to be abducted, sexually assaulted, and abused by a supernatural sex cult that stalks her because they think she is a prime suspect for assaulting.
Apart from the blatant and unnecessary non-consensual sex that occurs, along with some creepy sexual stalking, there isn’t a lot of meat to the story. There are some elements of the supernatural that could be borderline interesting if the plot was fleshed out enough to make sense. By the end of the issue, we have met a few characters but they are all forgettable or badly presented. There are no clear motives or ideas of what the next issue will hold. The scenes are so haphazardly arranged and the actual plot points are so sparse that it is nearly impossible for readers to actually figure out what’s happening or why. I was left wishing I had more information, and disappointed that the only real discernible plot point was based on the sexual assault of the main character, without context, warning, or reason.
I was originally intrigued by the cover art. It was a little racy for some store shelves, but had the possibility of revealing an interesting supernatural erotic story. The tones of blue on the cover are haunting and beautiful. However, much of that original impression is lost by the first page of the book. It seems that without a clear storyline the art gets lost in translation. The subtle colors of the cover are gone, replaced by jumpy panels and slapdash character building. The beginning of the book has bright art expected in a teen slice of life comic, while the art toward the end of the book seems completely disjointed. This may be an attempt to demonstrate a plot shift, but without an easily discernible plot to follow, the effect is jarring and strange. By the last few pages, the art and the story digress to purely self-serving erotica. The strange coloring and panel arrangement leaves Melissa looking bald or malformed at points, and the assault seems cartoonish and tasteless. I was left feeling disappointed and uncomfortable after reading.
Overall, I would not recommend this book. I had high hopes for the occult elements and cover art, but this book does not deliver, and reads more like a first draft idea than an edited, published, ongoing book. What I had hoped would be a creepy, sexy read ended up feeling like a vaguely supernatural 50 shades comic geared more toward a purely erotic audience than the usual caliber of Image monthlies. I hope that the next issue, for those who do decide to keep reading, focuses more on developing plot, relatable characters, and supernatural elements rather than continuing in the footsteps of this strange first installment.
The Discipline #1 was released by Image on March 2, 2016. It features writing by Peter Milligan and art by Leandro Fernandez.