A Rope Around Your Broken Neck, the latest one-shot comic from Attackosaur Comics, is one-part horror show, one-part history lesson, and one-part commentary on human nature. Set in the Tower of London at the height of the Black Plague, the book follows the efforts of a brooding prison doctor to make sense of the pain and suffering that surround him. His family has been taken by the dread disease, his king and countrymen have fled the city, and it appears as if God has vanished from the scene along with them. In fact, the only person who appears not to have been touched by the plague is a Spanish priest imprisoned for heresy. The problem, of course, is that the doctor can’t make sense of the priest’s apparent immunity to the plague: if God is a just God who sides with the King, then why does a Catholic priest — which is to say an infidel, as far as the Church of England is concerned — go unscathed while the truly faithful perish?
In terms of style, the book is evocative of modern classics by the likes of Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. The mood of the comic makes it hard to shake the feeling that Dream, the lead character of Gaiman’s Sandman series, is lurking around every corner, lying in wait to confront his sister, Death. Likewise, the sinister garb of the prison doctor (pictured) makes for an immediately iconic anti-hero reminiscent of the Guy Fawkes-esque V in Moore’s V for Vendetta. (To be honest, I’d love to see a modern version of this figure fighting crime and corruption in contemporary London while wrestling with his own existential angst over the nature of justice and the difference between good and evil.)
As the title may suggest, A Rope Around Your Broken Neck is not for the faint of heart. Like much of human history, it’s complicated, dark, and violent. Yet by exploring the darker side of human nature, author Martin Ian Smith and artists R. Ricardo and Nicolas Brondo offer a thought-provoking (if somewhat grim) assessment of faith, justice, social order, and survival.