End Times: Bloody Demon Guts
Written and Illustrated by Sam Hiti
Published by La Luz Comics
Continuing our perusal of older books that deserve another look…
The first time I ever heard of Sam Hiti, he was this quiet guy on a convention panel I attended about indie creators and small-publishers. After the panel, I wandered by his table and looked over what he was selling: a one-shot comic called End Times. It was about a monster hunter, and I generally like monster hunters, but what got me to fork out the moolah for it was Hiti’s art. At the time, I thought of it as sort of a Latin version of Mike Mignola’s work with its abundance of black ink, simple, but intriguing designs, and uniquely creepy monsters.
Since then I’ve followed Hiti’s work pretty closely. The first interview I ever conducted was with Hiti right after he won the Xeric grant for a sequel to the End Times one-shot. Three years later, that sequel came out.
I tell you all that so that you can get a sense of the anticipation and expectation with which I finally read End Times: Bloody Demon Guts (the English translation of its actual, much-cooler-in-Spanish title: Tiempos Finales: Tripas Sangrientas de los Demonios). It was everything I’d hoped it would be, yet nothing like what I expected.
The story is a simple one. A nameless city is plagued by periodic demon-attacks and the prayers of its citizens have the power to summon the one man capable of defeating the demons: a supernatural monster-hunter named Mario Román. Though 128 pages, Bloody Demon Guts covers the battle between Román and a single demon. We get a couple of glimpses at the beings responsible for the demonic attacks on the city and hints of their motivations, but by-and-large it’s about Román and his prey.
128 pages seems a lot to spend on what’s basically a single fight scene,but it’s not. Not the way Hiti tells it. Hiti’s story is cinematic and he spends plenty of time building suspense, creating tension, and setting the mood for what is essentially Act I of an even larger tale. The first page of the story begins with the words “El Primer Libro”. The First Book. There’s more to come and when it’s done, I expect that the collected Tiempos Finales will read like you’re watching a Robert Rodriguez film of a Guillermo del Toro script. There are whole pages of nothing but shots of the city as Román enters it and even more pages devoted to watching the eerily misty demon as it follows the trail that Román has intentionally laid for it. There are pages and pages showing townspeople and their reactions and anticipation of a coming demonic attack. None of this is wasted. A shorter comic couldn’t get away with this level of setting, but Hiti has plenty of space in which to work and he uses it all. Exactly what I was hoping for in the book.
The surprise was how much Hiti didn’t tell and left for future volumes. Even knowing that this was just the first volume, I wasn’t expecting to be this thirsty for El Libre Secundo by the end of it. There are so many questions left unanswered: Who or what exactly is Román? Why are the demons in Hell fighting and what does that mean for the world? Who is the mysterious girl who is hinted at all through the book and whom we get a glimpse of at the end? What will she mean to Román’s mission? I can’t wait to learn more.
As a single volume, Bloody Demon Guts is a lavishly illustrated, luxuriously paced, if simple story. As part of a larger tale, it’s a tantalizing taste of things to come.