By Daniel Vlasaty
Ghost and zombies and vampires – and all kinds of shit like that – have been done so many times in comics (and all other forms of media) that it kind of gets to a point where it’s like what’s the point of even trying? You got to think that everything you’re trying to do, someone else has already done, and probably better, too. You’ve got to know that anything you do make is going to be compared to the countless things that have come before it. You’ve got to know that any idea you’ve got, someone’s already had that same idea. This is the mentality I usually have before I go into a new horror book (or movie or blah blah blah). That what I’m about to consume is something I’ve already consumed. I’m probably jaded when it comes to things like this. Zombies and witches and ghosts. The horror genre tends to be a bit of a letdown, for me. Maybe it’s because I expect too much. Or maybe I’m just a pretentious asshole who should shut the fuck up already and tell you about The Gravediggers Union, Wes Craig’s new comic – that he’s writing with Toby Cypress doing the art. Because I loved this book, and it manages to stay fun and exciting and fresh in a genre that’s maybe – cough-cough – kind of played out.
The Gravediggers Union is about just that. It's about a union of gravediggers, except these guys don’t just dig graves. They also fight zombies and vampires and ghost-storms and junk golems on a nightly basis. They save the world just about every day and shit's getting a bit out of control. Cole's an old-timer, been in the game a long time. And he's noticing an alarming up-tick in attacks and it's got him feeling all kinds of uncomfortable. So, he recruits two other gravediggers – Ortiz and Haley – to try to do something about it with him. They need to go see a witch, Morphea, to get some advice. But you can't just go see a witch. That's against the Gravediggers Union charter. Something like this needs to be sanctioned by the Union chief, Leroy. When their plea for a parley with some witches is denied, Cole, Ortiz, and Haley are venting their frustrations over diner coffees. They know they can't just roll over on this. They know that Leroy doesn’t know what he's talking about, because he's not down there in the shit with them. He's tucked away safe in his office. They know they need to do something about it.
The thing I loved most about The Gravediggers Union was how comfortable it felt. This is a book that's trying to tell a pretty big story and Craig manages to pull it off in a way that doesn’t feel at all over-bearing or heavy. He doesn’t spend much time getting us readers caught up with the world of the book. And actually, he does a pretty decent job getting us caught up rather quickly, in the form of a few panels of news broadcasts showing us the state of the world, all the zombie attacks and ghost-storms and vampire whatevers.
I mainly know Wes Craig from his Deadly Class artwork. I've been aware that he also writes his own comics, I just haven't had the pleasure of reading them yet. But on top of being a kickass artist, he's also a great writer. The writing here is light and funny and the book has a lot of history in its pages. I like when writers appear to have faith in their readers, faith that we don't need our hands held throughout the duration of the story. We don't need to be drowned in exposition. Sometimes it's just better to figure it out as we go. Aside from the few pages of news broadcasts I mentioned above there is very little set-up.
There’s a lot to like in this first issue. It’s full of great writing and good characters, top-notch world building. And on top of all that, the art is great. Craig does the first few pages, but then Toby Cypress takes over the duties. Cypress’s art is expressive and beautiful. The character designs and the monsters and creatures are great. Especially the junk golem and the ghost-storms. There is a style to the art here that I don’t often come across. It’s a cross between fun and scary, light and heavy. And it’s taken all the way from the line work to the shadows to the color (done here by Niko Guardia). The fight scenes are very visually pleasing and perfectly over-the-top. Seeing an old man stab a naked zombie in the eyes with a pitchfork is not something I’ll soon forget. Guardia’s colors give the book a nice supernatural feel. With splashes of color overlaying the panels and slightly obscuring the images. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you catch a flash of something out of the corner of your eye, but it’s gone before you can actually make it out. If that makes any sense.
I’ll admit the I was slightly disappointed when I found out the Craig wasn’t going to be doing all of the art. Because like I said, I love his work on Deadly Class. But now I’m kind of glad. Because Toby Cypress’s art is so good it’s kind of ridiculous. And it fits the tone of the book perfectly.
The Gravediggers Union is a lot more than I was expecting. It’s a solid opening issues and maybe one of my favorite first issues of the year. I feel like this book could have easily become something safe and boring and redundant. Monster hunters are kind of blah in my opinion. But I’m happy to say that this book is great and I fucking loved it. There are a lot of horror comics coming out right now. But I feel like this one is doing something a little different than all the rest, and I’m excited to continue reading it.
The Gravediggers Union #1