Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artwork: Mattia Monaco
Colours: Matt Milla
Lettering: Taylor Esposito
Release Date: 2nd December 2020
All 21-year-old Pryor Brice wants to do is make people laugh, so he finally decides to take the plunge and try his hand at stand-up comedy. Trouble is, he’s not great at it. In fact, he’s pretty damn awful. However, a chance meeting with a stranger, a horrific car crash and the bizarre after-effects of his near-death experience may end up being exactly what he needs to get his comedy career up and running.
I’ve been a massive fan of Eliot Rahal since his work alongside Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw on The Paybacks with Dark Horse back in the day, and make it a personal mission of mine to check out anything I see with his name attached. This new series, on sale today from AfterShock Comics, features the trademark Rahal sense of humour with just a hint of darkness around the edges, and this first issue lays out the stall rather impressively for the story to come.
In fact, my only significant criticism is that the series is essentially waiting until issue two to really deliver the hook of the story, and it’s only from the “next issue” blurb at the end that I discovered just how cool this one is going to get. Don’t get me wrong, as an intriguing, humorous and faintly endearing look at the life of a failing wannabe comedian, Knock ‘Em Dead is an enjoyable enough read, but the more supernatural and attention-grabbing aspects of the story are only broadly hinted at on the very last page here, which seems to me like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Speaking of attention-grabbing, I’ll admit that Mattia Monaco wasn’t a name I was previously familiar with, but his artwork here is absolutely fantastic. Packed with an almost frenzied energy in places, he really helps to nail the key character and humorous beats of the story, and the montage sequence where Pryor bombs night after night on the comedy circuit is pure genius from both artist and writer.
Similarly, Taylor Esposito’s lettering helps the humour to land throughout the course of this issue, and features some neat visual flourishes for Pryor’s stand-up routine, with plenty of eggplant emojis along the way. Rounding out the visual package is Matt Milla’s impressive colour work, displaying a great mastery of light, shadow and glare, and some solid mood work throughout which helps to establish the shifting tone of the story.
All in all, I’m a fan of this series. Pryor is a likeable protagonist, and his complicated family situation – established via a rather endearing exchange with his older sister – only helps to cement that. Minor niggles about the pacing of the “reveal” aside, it’s clear that this series is really going to hit its stride from issue two onwards, and if you want to read a supernaturally charged tale of a failing stand-up comedian and the near-death experience that gives him his big break (and who doesn’t?), this is just the book for you.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]