Review: Tainted #1 & #2 (Eclipse Press)

Tainted by Dean Kish from Eclipse Press, focuses on a young woman as she battles depression while preparing to take on an ancient cult. Currently coming to the end of its second issue Kickstarter we take a look and see if it will join the ever growing lists of must-read comics about mental health

Publisher: Eclipse Press
Writer: Dean Kish
Artist: Francoise Valmoria (Art), Rinehard Buhisan (Letterer)
Price: Currently on Kickstarter

Tainted tells the story of Creek Whilen, a former high school cheerleader who, after being involved in a tragic accident which results in the death of her boyfriend, struggles to face the day to day ritual of school life as she falls into depression. However, even while Creek’s illness alienates her from her schoolmates and causes friction with her recently separated mother, further upheaval threaten her already tenuous mental health with the arrival of a mystery man next door who informs her that she is special and, because of this, a powerful secret society as now after her. Now, Creek, with the help of a recently returned old friend, must study and train and prepare for the inevitable confrontation with this ancient evil. However, all this preparing might end up being for naught if Creek can not first defeat her greatest enemy; her own demons.

Comics focusing on a mental health aspect intertwined within a fictional story are a difficult needle to thread, but Dean Kish has certainly put together an interesting concept with Tainted. The title has a very Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibe to it, certainly helped by similarities such as the seasoned mentor, the high school aged sidekick and even the supernatural/mystical big bad. However, the revelation of the Viciat Collective, while mysterious, feels like a distraction from the important, and dare I say, more interesting recovery story.

Tainted is a comic whose first issue struggles to find its footing in its first issue, with exposition and set up really upsetting the pace. That said, the second issue shows itself as a marked improvement, flowing much better and with greater focus to Creek’s road to both battle and recovery. As such Creek is a pretty well defined lead, feeling mostly realistic in her reaction and battle with her depression, which seems best exemplified during her martial arts training and even the acknowledgement of her need for music. However, beyond that, most of the other characters feel largely forgettable, not helped by an overuse of dialogue, some of which feels a bit wooden for the scene it is set in.

On the art side, Francoise Valmoria’s brings to Tainted an an incredibly bold and vibrant style, one which is highly stylised and beautiful to look at. As a result, the series has a very Manga influence and shows similarities to Sam Webster’s visual style from Joe Cape while the colour scheme is reminiscent of Andi Ewington’s Overrun comic and Lynne Triplett’s Engelbaum webcomic due to its digital colours. However, if there is one issue with the art side, it is the concern that the colour scheme and even some of Creek’s attire choices do not seem in keeping with the tone of a comic about Depression. That said, everyone battles mental health differently and so this reviewer cannot hold such choices to harshly against what is otherwise and intriguing comics.

Although, it’s start was slow going, Tainted has, so far, improved and shown itself to be an enjoyable series. Dean Kish has put together a good concept which, if it continues to build on itself at the rate it has done in the first two issues, could become a truly engrossing as well as inspiring read to people who are struggling in a similar headspace. That said, the price tag it is currently running at may give people pause regardless of its quality.