Tiempos Finales (End Times)
By Samuel Hiti
Published by La Luz Comics
In the best way possible, from design to storyline, from mood to dialogue, Tiempos Finales suggests that Sam Hiti has been a student of Gilbert Hernandez. The book seems like a lost volume of the Palomar saga; this is not to suggest that Hiti is as versatile or accomplished a cartoonist as Hernandez, who after all has a two-decade head start on Hiti. But nevertheless, the comparison is apt: Tiempos Finales is a propulsive tale of demon-killing, visually impressive and narratively satisfying.
I was skeptical when the religious iconography reared its head early in the tale; Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech a couple years back masterfully imitated the stylings of Will Eisner to slide a "Jesus is Lord" tract down the throats of his likely unsuspecting readers, sacrificing narrative integrity in his all-consuming mission to force readers to "kneel at the foot of the cross." Hiti wisely puts Christian mythology in service of a straight-ahead adventure, using the religious overtones as powerful mythological resonance that deepens the readers conviction that the stakes here are as high as the story's participants believe them to be.
It doesn't hurt that Hiti's artwork is so stunning. His depth of field and sense of scale is complemented by his elegant use of shading and black, white and brown/gold ink to vividly recreate a South American village with all the intricate, decaying architecture and darkened, shadowy doorways that environment demands.
The story's focus is a towering demon hunter whose piercing gaze and deeply lined face suggest that just the latest scuffle in an ancient war is being played out before us. The demons and creatures he wrestles with are strangely alien, their totality visible before us but their Lovecraftian construction so alien as to be difficult to parse even when seen straight-on and impossible to recall from memory.
There's a pleasing lyricism to Hiti's storytelling; huge conflagrations of violence are contrasted with the smallest of moments, a thankful bird or an embarrassed child. Through it all, Hiti never loses track of the throughline; there doesn't seem to be a wasted moment anywhere in the book.
Christian mythology has been well-mined for storytelling as elegant and compelling as Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell's Murder Mysteries or as pedestrian and ill-conceived as the aforementioned Creature Tech. Hiti's Xeric-winning graphic novel falls squarely on the side of the angels, a winning combination of graphic beauty and narrative economy that never loses sight of its mission to dazzle and entertain. Grade: 4/5
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