By Grant Chastain (story), Fran Moyano (pencils), Jay Moyano (colors)

At first I thought this was just going to be one of those “Punisher goes to jail” type of stories. At least that’s how the story starts off. A criminal named “Payback” (who’s a similar archetype to the Punisher) is locked away in a remote jail 30 miles off the coast of Florida. This prison, San Tiburon, houses the most ruthless super-powered criminals in the world. The warden isn’t too happy with bringing this known vigilante into his home. And who would? It’d be like treating him to a buffet! So the warden goes out and hires a new captain for his Violent Crimes wing, Jason Brody – an officer with a record of police brutality. Brody’s not exactly a bad officer, but he walks that fine where he could easily give in to his more “undesirable” traits.

Most of this book centers around Brody and his dealings with prisoners, his life, and a swirling conspiracy that he’s completely unaware of. But as I progressed through the six issues collected I found that nearly every chapter deals focuses on one of the prison inmates. The tone and the interactions are remeniscent of stuff you’d find in other prison dramas like HBO’s Oz. Luckily, this book keeps away from the prison rape scenes and focuses on the politics and agendas of the prisoners. People into this genre will be incredibly pleased with Grant Christian’s writing, while those looking for a fresh independent book will be a pleasantly surprised. It’s not often that I read a trade in one sitting, but I was so immersed with the characters that I couldn’t put the book down.

The book isn’t perfect, however. I have problems with the coloring and some of the bad art scans. There are a few pages that look like awful jpegs, complete with artifacts. They don’t affect the story, but they are noticeable and look terrible. As for the coloring, it’s dull and lifeless. I understand that the prison may need to feel sterile, but this mentality also robs the book of its character – because Fran Moyano’s storytelling is quite good – he loads the panels with lots of detail and oddball looking background characters. It just could have been so much better in a more capable colorist’s hands.

Misgivings aside, at $14.95 for 152 pages there’s little reason not to pick this up. The strong characters and art will win you over. Arcana’s got one of the best surprises of this year in their hands. (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes