Writer: Bill Morrison
Artwork: Bill Morrison, Keith Champagne
Release Date: 7th October, 2015
In 1940, a hokey carnival sideshow attraction – the “preserved human body” – suddenly comes to life. Turns out, the body belongs to John Doe, a radio personality and activist who finds himself trying to remember his past life and piece together the events that led to his disappearance almost a decade ago.
Serving as something of a love letter from Bongo Comics co-founder Bill Morrison to the pulp heroes of the 40’s, this first issue has gangsters, trenchcoats and mystery aplenty. Everything you could hope for in a pulpy crime series, right? Well… almost. The first issue is a little exposition-heavy for my tastes, as we are presented with an episode-long information dump as John Doe probes into the events of his past.
He’s a curious character; an activist whose words on the radio understandably irritate the local mobsters and corrupt government officials, but who also seems brazenly reckless, especially when it comes to the safety of his loved ones. He’s not necessarily all that likeable either, a fact which has to be viewed as something of a misfire when we’re presumably supposed to become invested in his story and ongoing investigation.
One thing that definitely hits the mark however is the artwork, which is truly gorgeous in place. Morrison does a fantastic job with some bold, expressive characters and an impressive attention to detail, giving the book a slightly cartoony, somewhat dated look similar to the familiar Archie Comics style. Keith Champagne’s inks give the Morrion’s pencil a pleasing solidity, and Carlos Badilla’s colours round off the package, giving the book a wonderfully glossy aesthetic.
Overall, while it features an undoubtedly strong premise and some lovely artwork, Dead Vengeance doesn’t quite manage hit the ground running in this first issue, stumbling on its way out of the blocks and providing a disappointingly flat first issue as a result. Hopefully now that the exposition portion of the story is out of the way the series can start to build some momentum, but in terms of serving the main purpose of an opening issue – to hook the reader enough to make them want to read the rest of the series – this one feels more like the body in the tank than the reanimated man.
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