Virgin Comics is dabbling in some interesting waters. Their goals are threefold. The first and most obvious is to make a profit, which as with all comic book publishers is essential. However, Virgin Comics’ approach is intriguing and curious. Their second goal is to have film directors create and direct the course of a series. This may not seem like a lot, but it is in fact quite different. Usually, directors and producers come to Comicbookville (centered directly between Bookville and Hollywood), looking to coerce some storyline into a cinematic masterpiece (or catastrophe, depending on how well they do it). But instead of simply taking from the pot, these directors are putting back into the pot. Granted, no one is quite sure how much influence, control, or original concepts come from these directors; it’s still new to see their name attached to these graphic novels. The third goal that Virgin Comics is looking to accomplish is widening the cultural gamut of comic books in the United States. While there is increasing diversity in comic books, they still remain predominantly Western in concepts and source material.
Hence, they have delivered Shekhar Kapur's Snake Woman to Western readers. Jessica Peterson lives a perfectly normal life for a young woman in Los Angeles, waiting tables at a local joint named “Bad Karma.” After a nice man takes her out after work and turns violent, Peterson finds herself with his blood on his hands, not entirely sure what has happened to her. Before she can fully fathom what she’s done, she is kidnapped by a man named Harker who reveals Peterson’s true identity. She is the reincarnation of Snake Woman, a woman bent on revenge of the sixty-eight men who destroyed her village and hilled her family hundreds of years ago. Just like her, the sixty-eight are also repeatedly reincarnated with full memory of their past, only able to pass into the afterlife when the Snake Woman has killed all sixty-eight men within one lifetime. As Peterson is overwhelmed with her past, she must figure out how she will succeed this time.
The story maintains a good flow of intrigue while also introducing readers to the mild-mannered Jessica and the common elements of her world, such as her roommate Jin, and new friend and neighbor, Raj. They also move beyond the simple dichotomy of good and evil into a realm where every character can be seen in shades of gray. The graphic novel does come loaded with extras, including a several-page spanning commentary by the Wells and Gaydos articulating the process of the pages laid out before the reader. They provide excerpts from the diary of the previous Snake Woman and even doctors’ notes on Harker’s associates. These supplemental materials help round out the stories mythos as well as providing additional information about the cultural background to the Snake Woman in Indian culture.
Readers will certainly fall for the mild-mannered Peterson’s evolution into the dark and vengeful Snake Woman. The narrative pulls readers in, and the extras help soften any bumps in the road - though one wonders how much staying power the story arc will have once (or if), the Snake Woman manages to get her full revenge.