You’re either going to love or hate Dead Vengeance. It’s a story that’s set in the age of Prohibition, a bygone era. It’s also a comic that feels old in many ways. The narration, the structure of the plot and the look of the book. Some might dislike this intentional throwback style to the way comics were back in the early years of comics, while others might really enjoy the simplicity of the storytelling and just how effective it can be. We open in Detroit Michigan in the 40s. There’s a carnival going on and an “oddities” booth to check out. Oddities being a freak show if you’re unsure what that is. Inside we find three young boys looking at a man in water wearing a cloth diaper. One of the boys tells a story his father told him about how to wake up the man. His friends call him out for being a liar just like his father and so the little boy tries it. Suddenly our man in the jar is alive and fighting for air. He climbs out and beings walking away from the carnival and stumbles into a road causing a car accident. He checks on the man, but people are coming and our recently awoken dude has no memory of who he is and what’s happened to him.
We as the audience see that he has a helper that he’s unaware of. A woman that is seemingly helping our jarred man regain his life and possibly his memories by giving him clues. Our mystery man takes a chance and calls a friend that may know more and sure enough… he does. From there our two characters walk us through a chunk of John Doe, a.k.a. Johnny Dover’s life.
The story from that point is the friend telling Johnny his life story. It’s very effective and believable because the main character doesn’t have any memories. If that wasn’t the case this would just be an info dump for the reader’s sake which it is partially, but forgivable because of the character. It’s a gripping story. You want to know how this man ended up in a jar smelling of alcohol, especially after learning a bit about his life. We don’t get everything, but we are left with a cliffhanger that will bring you back and hopefully answer some more questions. That’s just part of the reason the story will bring you back, because after Johnny and subsequently the reader as well, learn how he ended up where he did… we’ll want to know what he’s going to do about it.
The writing may be throwback, but it’s good throwback. Bill Morrison transports the reader to an era that no longer exists and somehow manages to stay true to that era with his story. If you’ve never read an old school comic, you may want to check this book out.
The art, also by Morrison, is throwback, but not. It’s hard to explain that, but I’ll try to elaborate. Morrison captures the era in the story, but his art is way better than the era. He has clean line work and the skill is very modern. It’s still convening for the story and setting though. It just really messes with the world and story.
Now with so much narration you’re probably thinking that the story tells more than it shows, but Morrison is a strong visual storyteller. He uses his written narration as a strength and manages to use the art to enhance the narration. They flow together like the start and finish of a sentence. The start being the narration and the finish being the art and any dialogue within.
You may be on the fence on this book. It may look like something “old” and so not for you and all your iconic cover desires, but if you’re a true comic book fan then check it out. If you like seeing comics be comics and really use the medium to transport you to another time and era, then Dead Vengeance is that book for you. It’s a smart blend of new and old, but every bit of it is entertaining. If all of this isn’t enough to get you to read it, then I’ll say that I got a Darkman vibe from it.
Dead Vengeance #1 (of 4) Writer/Artist: Bill Morrison Inker: Keith Champagne Colorist: Carlos Badilla Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/7/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital