Although this may be one of the rare cases where readers can pretty accurately judge a book by its (lurid) cover, there’s a lot of top-notch comic grammar going on beneath the sticky film of blood, sweat, and jism on the surface. An unfortunate side-effect of Ryan’s preference for full-frontal shock is that it’s easy to miss just how talented he is at the subtle, yet all-important art of composition. Whilst the illustration itself might look like it’s straight out of a death-metal-loving, maladjusted teen’s school note book, there’s a truly outstanding understanding of how to pace character interaction and action in a way where it feels natural - and very almost animate - to the eye.
Although it’s not a comparison people are likely to make off the bat, once reader's learn that Ryan cites Kentarō Miura’s much-beloved (and similarly violent) fantasy manga Berserk as an influence, it all clicks into place. Whilst not nearly as ornate or austere as Miura’s ongoing gore-fest, I dare say that Prison Pit ascends above it in terms of sheer depravity alone. As alluded to previously, this series is more an exercise in combining the semiotics of macho fantasy than anything else, and traces of many testosterone-fuelled texts pulse through its dark crimson veins. As crazy as it might sound, the knee-pad and wrestling-trunk wearing C.F. is definitely more pastiche than parody, and his disreputable antics a love-letter to the visual traditions of hyper-masculine excess.
To conclude with one more awkward comparison, reading Prison Pit: Book 2 is like watching the all the best Kaiju movies back to back, only without all the boring guff they use to add context to the fight scenes. Johnny Ryan is a man who knows that that audience doesn't want context, they just want to see one grotesque abomination eviscerate the next in an infinite chain of interspecies schadenfreude. With the carnage only taking a short break midway, so the protagonist (quite rightly) can have a cyborg penis attached in order to violently copulate with a nude-breasted Pterodactyl-monster, we, the audience, finally get our darkest wishes granted. Some things you just can't unsee, and in the case of this book, it feels all the more valuable for it. Roll on Book Three!