They are some book titles that do their best to leave you in darkness. What is the book about? What genre? Can I leave my five-year-old unattended with it?
Now one thing is sure. Katrina Hates Dead Shit is not one of them.
The cheeky genius of the title could work as an elevator pitch for this five-volume epic. Who is the main character? Katrina. Is she rather a nice person? No. Is she raising money to build a shelter for all misunderstood beastly creatures of the world and beyond? Hell no.
And no, this is not an appropriate bedtime story, unless you’re trying to raise an Antichrist.
The Horror of 9 to 5
Are you having Garfield Mondays? Is your job dull, your boss unbearable and the company’s products shit? I guess sometimes it feels like the end of the world… For Katrina, it’s just another f * * *ing day. Apocalypse happened, took all the good ones and she’s left to serve pizza to C-rated demons while fighting off clingy zombie roommates and avoiding the plague. The aftermath of the end of times is as horrific as it is tedious. If you thought that apocalypse would at least free you from taxes, annoying neighbors and capitalism, you were wrong.
They are still very much present and somehow even worse.
Katrina is doing her best in this world. She found a good solution to everything, which is to kick, punch and hit as long as it takes for the problem to go away. She hates dead shit and she also takes none.
But when Connie, and angsty teenager with a goth attitude, walks in into Katrina’s bistro with her very much not well boyfriend, our protagonist’s soft spot or rather a sense of duty is activated. She offers to help or rather bullies Connie into letting her help her and the trio is off to the hospital. All they need to do is punch their way through hordes of demons and various hellish beasts…
God knows they will need that (and a lot more!) for the quests that lie ahead!
Bad and Worse Omens
There’s an easy comparison to be made with another popular media hitting our screens these days. The BBC Good Omens, based on Neil Gaiman’s and late Terry Pratchett’s book handles very similar themes. Both take the symbols and stories that are somewhat untouchable and give them a very unique, modern twist. While Katrina Hates Dead Shit takes everyday life and turns it into a bonus circle of hell, Good Omens is more about updating the traditional with a 21st-century look.
I wonder if Russell Nohelty, the writer behind this comics, gave it a read: ‘It’s my favorite book of all time, so yes, I know of it, and love it. The thing with the Bible is that it’s just so ridiculous, and Good Omens does a great job in showing that absurdity.’ Russell says.
It makes quite an interesting comparison to explore how the most well-known characters, i.e. angels, demons, Satan or God him/herself, are portrait. It’s the reinvention that offers the most regarding a creative outlet. Russell points out that, when it comes to reinvention, that’s what church has been doing for ages: ’I mean, Jesus was only on Earth for a few years, and the entire New Testament is about how nobody can agree on what happened to him.‘
While Good Omens put heavy emphasis on clothing its characters in modern cover, metaphorically and literally, Katrina’s world might the same as ours, but its mythological characters are very much archetypical.
Pratchett’s and Gaiman’s Serpent of Eden might be an actual snake at first, but during years evolves into a stylish David Tennant who loves mischief, house plants, and rock music. While we never actually see God, we hear a female voice narrating Good Omens world trivia and it’s not before the very end when it is specifically referred as the voice of the God.
God appears, of course, in Katrina Hates Dead Shit too, but his appearance is somewhat uninspired. He’s the renaissance God, bearded and grim, white robes and all. Subversion is thrown left and right lately, mostly thanks to the debacle of Game of Thrones writing.
Russell was careful not to fall into that trap: ‘I thought it was important to show the angels and demons roughly as described by religious scholars, or at least how they appear in the public consciousness.’ He thinks you can either subvert looks or character, but not both. ‘If you change the characters’ personalities and their designs, then it becomes harder to pin people down. You have to give people MOST of what they know, and then subvert a bit here and there.’
As it might be easier for the reader, I found it a bit disappointing that after so many wonderful twists on the reality that Katrina world presents, the main players are more of a Halloween costumes than innovatively fleshed out characters. Satan is big, bad and red, the Archangel is white and fair-haired. It would be nice to see a more modern, or even an outlandish take on their looks or behavior, as I am sure bringing the end of the world to, let’s say, the 12th century wouldn’t look the same as today’s apocalypse.
Although I suspect that twisting the story too much would take away the joy of seeing a text from a book with so much history going bananas. Did he receive any negative reception coming from more conservative readers?
‘I’m a little upset that I didn’t. I was ready for the blowback, but I get more people complaining about the cursing than anything else.’ he says, sounding disappointed.’ How bizarre having people be offended over bad language rather than the liters of blood and piles of insides flying around on almost every page after all. ’However, one person did leave a review once that said she felt like she committed a sin reading it, and that was very nice to hear.’
The ever-present violence is an interesting topic. Once again there’s is the question of how truthful should an adaptation be. Bible, after all, isn’t quite a bedtime story either.
‘The Bible is quite possibly the goriest book ever written. There are blood sacrifices and fire raining down on towns.’ Russell explains. ‘I wanted to lean into that, so I think even though Katrina is a satire, it’s very much in keeping with the hyper-violence of the Biblical tradition, and no book of the Bible is more violent than Revelations.’
Fightin’ through the story
One of the most entertaining parts of the comics is the lavish fight scenes. Katrina truly knows only one way of solving problems and she uses it every damn time. Especially in the parallax scrolling, the scenes follow naturally and your wish for the fights to never end. Their scenes are well constructed, always making sure the reader knows where is what and how each action started and ended. You get a strong sense of gravity and space.
The gore, though explicit, never feels redundant or self-gratifying, thanks to Juan Friferi, the man behind the pencil.‘Most of my books have a manga or cartoonish inspiration which helps with the excess violence, so I was interested in having an artist on the book who could bring in a bit of cartoonishness while making it feel like a Marvel-style.’ Russel explains. ‘I needed somebody who understood that the setting was absurd, but could also make it feel real.’
Especially in the final chapter, where the surviving casts face a great serpent, the art is outstanding and simply joy to look at. It sometimes feels almost like a videogame, with all the micro-animations and all, and as the story progresses, you are opening new levels and facing tougher opponents.
Another thumbs-up goes to the artists for capturing perfectly the icky atmosphere of a world, that fell but refused to die. The grossness of the ever-present mold, diseases, and various bodily fluids mix up in a grotesque feeling of a world that is fun to read about, but you would rather not be part of it. The emotions are believable, sometimes almost caricature-like and nobody is sympathetic, but that all fits the narrative just fine.
That was a thin line to walk for all involved, admits Russell: ‘ I knew it would be very easy to fall into a depressing post-apocalyptic tone with this story, so I needed an artist that would see the humor, and bring levity to the words with their style.’
For the Undecided
Do you like new takes on old stories? Do you enjoy mischievous nibs at Christianity? Are you simply a fan of good gore and great fight scenes? Then I guess you’ve already decided!
If you need a little something to tip the scale, Katrina is a genuinely funny character. With her over-the-top behavior she’s still genuine. It’s nice to see a female character, who is rude and brutal but not sexualized in any way. And if the ending doesn’t make you burst out laughing, I suspect there’s a special place in Hell reserved just for you.
Author: Štěpánka Jislová
Štěpánka Jislová is a Czech Illustrator and Comics artist. Born in 1992, she resides in Prague and apart from numerous illustrated books and two stand-alone graphic novels, she enjoys doing tattoo and cloths designs, teaches, writes and gives talks and presentations. She participated in the comics symposium The Superheroes of Eastern Bloc (2015) and was awarded a prestigious Getting to know Europe grant at Wilkinson College, CA. She’s a co-founder of the Czech branch of Laydeez do Comics. Main focus of her work is storytelling via symbolism and archetypes, which she explores through carefully crafted compositions and precise line-work.