Script and Pencils: Bill Morrison
Inks: Keith Champagne
Colors: Carlos Badilla
Letters: Nate Piekos
After reading Dead Vengeance, one of my first thoughts was “how in the hell do you wake up dead?” Some of you may recognize that line from the lackluster Scary Movie 3 (admittedly, I do quite enjoy the first 2 films of the franchise) and its inclusion in this review might appear as some sort of omen. Don’t worry, it’s not. Apparently I just like admitting that I have seen more bad films than I have good ones. Anyways, I mention that line because “waking up dead” is an interesting idea. I’d imagine that it would be interested to “wake up dead” in your own bed, but what if you woke up dead in the oddities tent at a carnival? That’s the jumping off point of Dead Vengeance.
Dead Vengeance is everything that I want to see in a pulpy noir comic. Every moment of the book rides a very thin line between humorous and upsetting as the protagonist attempts to figure out why he is dead and get revenge on whoever killed him. The humor exists not in a “haha” funny kind of way but instead in a “this is unsettling so I am laughing because I am uncomfortable kind of way.” Much of this discomfort comes from the supporting casts own discomfort, giving the audience someone to experience the story through and establish some of the things that a comic can’t portray such as the smell of preserved body.
Every single time I read a Dark Horse book I look at it through the lens of their motto “_____ Builds Characters.” This means, at least in my opinion, that I should be able to find immersion in their library because of how real the characters feel. A few pages in to Dead Vengeance and its clear why they chose to publish it. I want nothing more than for the protagonist to succeed by the end of the series.
The collaboration between Morrison, Champagne, Badilla, and Piekos is a superlative. The line work is smooth, moody, and even comical when it needs to be. Badilla’s coloring work adds great depth to the art work and his color palette portrays the mood of the story incredibly well. Piekos’ lettering (no surprise here) is stellar. Dead Vengeance can be verbose at times but it never feels like it to do the incredible layout and stacking that I have come to appreciate from Piekos.
Finally, I want to mention something that immediately popped out to me. Dead Vengeance has thought bubbles. You know, those things that were quite common in the comics of yester-decade which have been replaced with the internal narration? Guess what, they rock in this book. While I think thought bubbles can be quite campy, I appreciated the inclusion of them and if writers can use them the way Morrison has, I would love to see them make a bit of a comeback.
Dead Vengeance #1 is dark, campy, funny, and sometimes even a little heartbreaking. The work of the entire team is on point and must a read for fans of stories that put characters first. If this isn’t on your pull list, you better have a good reason.