A few months ago, I praised co-writers Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil for making No Mercy—a series about a group of Princeton freshmen-to-be whose bus falls off a cliff during a humanitarian trip to Central America—for taking the book’s title to heart. The nine survivors of the crash haven’t had it easy. They’ve suffered through broken limbs, tainted water, oppressive heat and the constant threat of death. In an interview with Pop-Break at NYCC, de Campi promised that the next arc would be just as tough on the kids and this month’s fifth issue (which kicks off that arc) makes that abundantly clear.
Though some of the kids are finally being rescued, things haven’t gotten easier for them. Take Gina, who followed her crush Travis into the wilderness only to discover that his confidence was all an attempt to impress her. De Campi revealed during our interview that Gina would eventually make it back to the U.S., but given what happens to her in this issue (especially a shocking moment in the final panels that I won’t spoil here), you almost wonder if she wouldn’t be better off dead.
See, the thing about making the characters’ misery so unrelenting is that it can make the comic a bit difficult to read every month. As de Campi herself admitted, comics are usually about escapism and No Mercy offers anything but. Some readers will probably be turned off by that fact, but there’s something to be said for making a piece of fiction feel inescapably, painfully real. The book may be challenging, but it’s rewarding and I’ll take that over fights with supervillains any day.