Review - Dead Vengeance #1 (@DarkHorseComics)

"Here goes...once dead, but now revived, floating corpse, come alive!"

Few (read: none) of us are lucky enough to be able to live after death. If you could live after death, you could get a lot more stuff done. Like maybe even track down the person/people responsible for your death, as is the case in Dead Vengeance #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written and penciled by Bill Morrison, inked by Keith Champagne, colored by Carlos Badilla and lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot.

It’s 1940 and a phony body on exhibit in a carnival sideshow suddenly springs to life and shambles away. Not so phony after all, he is John Doe, radio commentator and archenemy of Detroit’s notorious Purple Gang! But why did he disappear in 1930, and why did the mayor, the mob and the cops all want him dead?

Taken at face value, Dead Vengeance #1 seems like a whodunnit, but the big twist is that the lead investigator is the victim himself. Morrison makes this the catch in a pretty clean way, giving readers a glimpse into John Doe's life (afterlife?) as he attempts to piece together the details of what happened. Helping him piece together the details is a friend, which provides a convenient device for narrating the tale and giving the reader the important details. It's nice that Morrison chose instead to use another character for the primary recounting of the events leading up to the present. And Morrison also manages to offer a glimpse into the universe of Dead Vengeance #1 at the same time, fleshing out the involvement of the mafia and their relationship to John Doe.

Morrison also handles the pencils as well, illustrating a world that boasts the same level of nostalgia as the script itself. Characters and anatomy bear resemblance to the style of Archie comics, punctuated by round faces and clearly defined physiques. Champagne's inks are concise, effectively showcasing the details in the clothing and era focused on in Dead Vengeance #1. And Badilla's colors are even, residing largely in the primary range of things. Blackening the gutters is very effective for emphasizing the action in the panels as well.

Dead Vengeance #1 is a title that makes the book seem a lot more violent than it actual is. At its heart, the comic is a detective mystery, where the victim is the lead investigator and is struggling to reconcile his current situation with his opponents. Morrison's script brings with it an old-school, nostalgic flair that imbues the book with plenty of atmosphere. The artwork is reminiscent of a different era in comics and brings with it a lot of stylistic tones. Dead Vengeance #1 is a nice throwback to another era of comics, offering a story that's cleverly presented to the reader.

Dead Vengeance #1 is in stores October 7.