Review - Dead Man's Party #1

"The TGV Milan to Paris is about as outside-the-box as I can get."

Besides being an episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, a dead man's party is an event that doesn't happen too often in the world of assassins and hitmen. When it does though, it has a tendency to bring everyone out of laying low and into the spotlight, as one of the competitors seek to cash in and add a notch in their assassination belt. Dead Man's Party #1 is an issue of a comic that takes the premise of a dead man's party and throws in a pretty savory twist. The issue is written by Jeff Marsick and illustrated by Scott Barnett.

Ghost is one of the world's premiere assassins. He's got it all too: immense skill, suaveness and a generally relaxed approach to life that spurs adventure. One thing he's not prepared for is a cancer diagnosis, giving him less than two months to live. So what does an assassin with a terminal illness do? Throw a dead man's party of course! The thirty day contest pits five renowned killers against one another in an effort to kill Ghost and claim his Swiss bank account and the bragging rights. This isn't your normal dead man's party however, as Ghost finds out this one has quite the surprise in store.

Marsick starts the issue off in a relatively ho-hum, spy/hitman way. Ghost is the quintessential assassin, replete with all the things that make James Bond the man he is. Where Dead Man's Party #1 truly excels though is where Marsick takes the life of such an individual. Adding a fixed mortality to someone who's seemingly invincible adds an interesting wrinkle to the assassin's daily routine, but Marsick takes it one step further and adds in a rather brilliant twist at the end. The story moves from being more than just a hitman and his peers to being a more intricate tale that weaves in various aspects of betrayal and espionage. Because these are assassins, everything is very much cloak and dagger in many respects, giving Marsick ample opportunity to slowly bring the reader along without giving away too much.

Barnett's illustrations are a very good complement to Marsick's writing. The characters of the story are all the focus and Barnett gives them all the attention. He relies on a charcoal, grayscale illustrative style that's relatively simple in its presentation, but adds a certain isolation to the characters. These individuals thrive on solitude, so imbuing the book with a variety of grays, blacks and whites could also symbolize the vague, moral code the hitmen abide by. Despite the basic color palette, Barnett manages to infuse the book with a solid level of detail and some varied panel layouts. The art is a very strong addition to the overall feel of the book.

Dead Man's Party #1 is a pretty masterfully done book that puts a twist on the basic hitman story. Ghost is more James Bond than Deathstroke in many ways, but he does manage to come across as something of a blend of both characters. Marsick's story is pretty awesome and ends with an amazing twist that will keep your interest peaked and practically demand that you return for the next issue. Barnett use a pretty minimal illustrative style that maximizes the effect of the story itself, giving the book it's own, distinct tone. Dead Man's Party #1 is a book that doesn't come along too often, but it's one you should definitely check out if you're looking for something intelligent and exciting.

Dead Man's Party #1 is available now via Comixology.