Before jumping into the actual review of The Filth. I must warn people about it. I had to think about whether The Filth should be reviewed. Not because it is a bad comic book or a masterpiece, but because it is thought-provoking, possibly gross, and definitely not family-friendly.
In case you still want to read about it, I must warn you that its content tackles taboo topics (such as porn, abnormal sexual behavior, Freudian theories – the weirdest ones, not the well-known ones, probably these are not so taboo), and it is graphic about them.
However, in this review, I will try not to talk about them too much as the comic book has more than that to offer to those who are willing to read it. Moreover, I try to make my reviews as informative as possible, and concentrating just on this aspect does not make it useful.
The Filth is a series of 13 issues (roughly 22 pages per issue) or a graphic novel of 309 pages (last time I checked it was sold both ways). The writer is Grant Morrison (the one who wrote The Invisibles, Doom Patrol), and the illustrators are Chris Weston and Gary Erskine.
What is so good about it?
#1st thing: the universe
There are no other comic books (as far as I know) that explore this universe, so I do not know if it is the most accurate term. The universe consists of our world that is protected (or controlled) by a group of people called The Hand. Every finger is a specific division, and one of these divisions has to deal with the sickest strangest cases. Roughly it is the garbage collector division.
But with every issue the function and history of The Hand get thicken, and so does the universe. The Hand’s agents do not even take care of eliminating the Filth to make the world a better place, but to maintain the status quo.
To put it short, it is a plain world where people are not classified into heroes, villains, and normal people. Most of the people are average and do not want to face the filth (of the porn industry, perversion, and deviations), and they may become a threat (antipersona) to the status quo.
#2nd thing: how intricate and twisted it becomes
The story revolves around a man Mr. Feely (or Ned Slade) that presumably has lost his memory regarding working with the Filth (or The Hand) and just wants to take care of his cat. In every issue, we see another mission in which Ned Slade’s team is sent to deal with a lunatic. His team consists of two women, a commie ex-astronaut monkey, and a guy who has nose problems.
However, every issue adds to the plot. Could The Hand be so simple as it presented? Did Mr. Feely (or Ned) really lose his memory? Why is there an evil twin of Mr. Feely/Ned Slade? Is this just a dream of a lunatic old man? Is The Hand of hallucination? Do the characters time travel? What is a parapersona?
#3rd thing: the art style
If it is psychedelic, I’m into it. Throw in some science fiction, and you got my attention. Make it function, give me the cyberpunk colors with a dreamy touch, and I’m sold. A combination of elements that work well together.
The backgrounds are astonishing, crazy, and sometimes disturbing. I do not mind being it disturbing if it has its place in the story, and it is not just over the top. I love how detailed the illustrators went for them. And how good the characters are drawn.
#4th thing : how it is presented
Okay, I have not said it that far, but they present the comic as medicine. The first pages of this comic are a leaflet which you should be reading before reading the comic because they are not joking with what is written there. Mind you!
What is not so good about it?
There are remarks that I heard during talking with some people about the comic. I do not think I have a big problem with The Filth, but just some piece of advice.
#1st thing: the writing style
Most people complained about the writing style is too complicated, or hard to follow. It is not as if it is plain or bad. It feels as if the writer wanted to deliver too many things at the same time, and that made it hard to be processed or followed. Thus, some people read it, enjoyed it, but did not understand that much.
#2nd thing: some issues are just disturbing
Now, the comic is called The Filth. The leaflet tells you what you should expect. I think you can understand where I’m going with this one: you should expect some lewd, graphic or mature content as well as innuendos or weird stuff.
Should I read it or not?
It is hard to say. It depends on you. If you are a person that likes things that are softer, normal, and not on the verge of being disturbing, I do not recommend this comic. You can find plenty of charming or thought-provoking stories that are more suitable for you.
Now, if you are a person that has no problems with the content mentioned above, likes science fiction stories or such settings, you might find The Filth a good choice to get you out of your reading slump. I estimate that if you read Palahniuk’s books (for example, Haunted or Monsters) and liked them, you might like this too.
My advice? If you read it, read one issue at a time so that you can process what happens. It is not fast reading.
Do you want to read another comic? Maybe you have a thing for Severed.
Magical realism can be very tempting to read, but it can be equally as as hard to tackle. If you are looking to get lost in a magical, yet grounded world, check out these three authors in this article!