Books bring out the best and worst in us as reflections of or inspirations for society. In Cullen Bunn’s latest horror comic, the dark spiraling trajectory that society is already on is tipped over the edge by a book called Satyr by Olivia Kincaid. Millions of people are reading it and the resulting violence and horror that the words apparently unleash in them are leaving a trail of blood and gore across the world.
The Last Book You’ll Ever Read #1
Cullen Bunn (writer), Jim Campbell (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Leila Leiz (artist), Giada Marchisio (colourist)
July 28, 2021
“Predatory or prey? Polite society tells us there is a difference. But — deep down — we know better. We’re both. We’re neither. We’re prey… right up until the moment we hunt.”
As Olivia casually leans against a desk, stylishly dressed, reading these words from her #1 bestselling book to a captive audience, a mild-mannered gentleman is being stalked by would-be assailants on the subway. When they confront him in an alleyway, the tables turn and he annihilates them with tooth and nail, leaving them in a pulpy mess before calmly walking home. Something in him has snapped, reverting him to his most feral nature in the face of danger and intimidation. Whatever that something is, is leaking from the pages of Satyr.
Despite having written the book, Olivia herself is not affected by this reversion to our most primal nature. In fact, Cullen Bunn writes a woman who is extremely aloof, seemingly unbothered by the death threats she receives from people who are pinning the international outbreak of violence on her as the harbinger of hell. She’s not much perturbed by the fact that red-eyed bloodthirsty people are attacking her whenever she’s out in public. One such attacker manages to tear apart Olivia’s police escort before being shot. This incident does ruffle her enough to seek better protection, but will the security guard she hires, Connor Wilson, be enough to handle any future threats?
Around here is where the story falls off a bit for me. Olivia’s seeming indifference to murderous, monstrous humans is all well and good, but there seems to be a disconnect in how Bunn writes about “death threats” versus the intensity of the violence artist Leila Leiz and colourist Giada Marchisio depict in the surrounding panels. The conversation between Connor and Olivia gives the impression that Connor, who leads an executive protection team, hasn’t bothered to actually look into the seriousness of the situation Olivia faces — and maybe hasn’t tuned into the news to see that people are, you know, tearing out each other’s throats with their teeth. The imagery implies that the cases of this happening aren’t roiling in the streets, but they certainly aren’t isolated. Olivia’s stipulation that Connor never read her book seems not to be of concern given Connor’s general ignorance of the situation as a whole.
Also, Connor’s facial hair has a strange habit of appearing and disappearing from one panel to the next. Several pages seem less polished than the rest, relying more heavily on inks than colours.
There’s certainly symbolism in people of the world targeting the book as the culprit of our downfall, with the story going so far as to depict bookstores and libraries being attacked and the book burned. Religious groups are united in their condemnation of the book, going so far as to label her an anarchist — or even a terrorist. And yet, no authority is really looking into the connection between reading the book and the aforementioned throat tearing.
Are there actually supernatural forces at work here? Olivia seems well aware of what she has unleashed, telling her friend that she knew what she was in for when she wrote it. In Greek mythology, the satyr embodies nature and playfulness, but the plot of this story clearly connects it to the more satanic depictions of the creature. Will the true nature of the book, the author, and the creature be revealed? Will Connor notice?
We shall see.