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REVIEW: 'Virgil' OGN by Steve Orlando and J.D. Faith


★★★★★ (5/5)

On its surface, 'Virgil' by Steve Orlando and J.D.Faith is a brutally fantastic revenge fantasy on par with Quentin Tarantino's best. Underneath, the tale of a man left for dead and his lover taken hostage carries with it, fairly or unfairly, the weight of representation in a medium and the type of story that more often treats homosexuals as victims than harbingers of vengeance. With a fast-paced and thoughtful exploration of a cop hiding his true self, his love for another man, and desire to leave the corrupted and bigoted world of Kingston, Jamaica, 'Virgil' is an allegory for the neverending struggle to fight injustice and live free against the worst of humanity in real life.

Virgil is going along to get along with his fellow police officers. Participating in shaking down local drug runners and spending that bounty on tawdry nighttime pursuits like prostitutes. The status quo is an atmosphere of alpha male posturing and a corrupted sense of invisibility because they were a badge. Not to mention an openly acceptable casualness towards misogyny and homophobia. 

Understandably,  Virgil has to keep his personal life hidden and that means sneaking around to see his boyfriend. It's in these moments Orlando demonstrates a great subtlety in unmasking Virgil, making him the generous and loving partner he is underneath the necessary facade of a callous cop. There is a serenity between Virgil and Erwan that can only exist behind closed doors. They're trapped and they dream of moving to Toronto to finally live life in the open.

During a private dinner party, Virgil, Erwan and the guests are beaten and some killed during a raid designed to take care of the secret gay cop, his lover, and friends. It's a violent display of hate and anger that make men into demons. J.D. Faith and colorist Chris Beckett choreography the frenzy that takes place with dark colors and brutal hits to the head and splashes of pinkish blood. Orlando requires the reader to look at this attack, forcing eyes upon this travesty, to inform of this kind of tragedy that transcends the pages and echoes through history. This is the consequence of blind hatred gone unchecked and rampant. 

Virgil survives, Erwan is missing and the quest for revenge begins. It sets off a long bloody confrontation after another. His reputation is smeared in the local paper and if dirty cops weren't enough of an obstacle the drug dealers also want to get a piece of a man on the ropes. Virgil is undaunted and his campaign of whip ass is tempered with memories of Erwan that feeds his perseverance. He recalls sweeter moments in their relationship.

Orlando once again taps into the emotional center of the story. Amid the beatdowns and violence lies at the heart the yearning to be free of the oppresion and live life normally with the one you love. Virgil is set on a war path to not only free his lover but free himself as well. In a world that shuns him, berates him, ridicules him he's not only enacting revenge on his attackers he's releasing his tortured soul. 

Orlando describes the story as "queersploitative" and it does harken to a time of exploitative film like 'The Harder They Come' but the themes are firmly relevant in the now. 'Virgil' is a straightforward revenge thriller ripe with socio-political undertones that is powerful, extremely violent and emotionally ravaging. 

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