Comic review: The Dead

Posted on October 12, 2015 By

The Dead
The Dead

James Maddox and Jen Hickman

4 stars

Imagine if the afterlife were neither a dichotomy of heaven and hell nor just another life, but was instead a giant house with room after room that seem impossible attached to one another – many filled with monsters, some willed with fellow post-mortals and only one mythical one offering a real hope at salvation.

That’s The Dead, a comic from Broken Icon. It’s a really compelling idea, and the art really sets a perfect mood. Right from the very beginning, the story hooked its talons into me and dragged me along with it. In the end, this became one of those books that I hate not being able to give 5 stars, because I REALLY enjoyed it.

We start out following a guy named Sam, a newcomer to The House. A man on the TV tries to get him to run, but disoriented and confused, he doesn’t quite follow that good advice. This leads to him meeting another of our main characters, Alex, who’s on the trail of a former friend with a special power who has gone on the lam. He deviated from the chase to save Sam and introduce him to Devi and the bar where most of the residents of this odd afterworld congregate. Here we learn about the main system of payment in this world – people brave dangerous rooms to bring out bottles for the bar, which can be traded for information, etc.

And here we have the first reason I can’t give this 5 stars. Isn’t that a great world-building thing? Doesn’t it sound fascinating? In a world where you can make rooms that are literally anything, from a claustrophobic, nasty old bathroom to a vast desert, don’t you just want to experience the world through this outlet? To see rooms, see dangers, see who the characters are by watching them face these hardships? Well, the idea is brought up and then never really gets used. The story kind of talks about it and then moves on.

Boo.

What it moves on TO is Alex’s search for his former friend, as mentioned earlier. He has a particular reason for wanting this guy back, a reason that could have been its own whole story honestly. This first part of the chase is great though for the introduction of my favorite character in the book, V, who gives zero fucks and wields her axe with a level-headed efficiency I admire.

From there, we have more twists and turns, people coming together and turning on one another, but that problem keeps rearing its head. There are times when things just happen, and they aren’t really explained, and the plot just rolls on as though we shouldn’t question it. Maybe we shouldn’t. If it had only happened once or twice, I could probably forget about it, but it happened a few more times at the end, the ending itself seemed… unresolved? Like, some things wrapped up, but it didn’t feel like an ending.

It’s one of those good-and-bad situations. I loved what I got, but I felt like if they’d had two books rather than three, they would have had more space to look at both the characters and the world – and both of those things are fascinating and could do with more exploration and space to breathe.

So, I guess in a way, this is 4 stars because I wanted more.

One other thing to be warned of – this is listed as a horror comic in a few places, and technically I can see why, but it’s not really scary, and only occasionally creepy. It mostly just goes for fascinating. I like that, but if you’re looking for actual scary stuff, this might not be the place.

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