Tom Taylor is a really good writer. He can tell big stories that involve the entire DCU, and he can tell stories on a much smaller, personal level, too. No matter which type of story he writes, there is always room for humor, heartfelt moments, and tragedy. The second issue of DCeased has all of these elements. However, while the good parts definitely are really good, I do have mixed feelings about this issue. That’s not to say that there’s anything particularly bad in this issue, but there are scenes that I think are somewhat underwhelming or missing the mark. So, let’s move on to the review proper and have a look. MINOR SPOILERS.
First of all, I want to point out how well scripted this issue is. It’s not because Taylor is innovating or doing things that are entirely unique to this story, but he writes a solid, tight script, and he makes it look easy. There is unity between the words and images throughout the entire comic, which results in a polished final product that reads smoothly. For example, on page one, in the first panel, we see a ship at sea, miles from land, and the caption reads: “In the first days, we were so isolated.” Then the narration continues: “We had no idea how far the horror reached. How wide it spread.” In the final panel of the opening scene we see Aquaman and infected people falling off the ship, into the water, sinking, and the final caption reads: “How deep.” Again, this isn’t out-of-the-box writing, but Taylor keeps finding the perfect timing for his prose descriptions, which, in combination with the visuals, enhance the storytelling aspect. It’s subtle, but effective.
As for the story itself, essentially it consists of four sections. First we see Aquaman, and then we see Harley and Ivy. There’s also a scene with Green Arrow, Black Canary and Green Lantern, who are out camping in the woods, oblivious to the apocalypse. Through these scenes runs the A plot, in which we follow Superman, Lois, Jon and Damian. Before I talk about the A plot, I want to say a few words about Aquaman, Harley and Ivy.
Aquaman’s scene is a great way to open the comic because it is a gory reminder of how messed up the current situation is in the DCU. Even far out at sea, people aren’t safe from the virus. But while Aquaman’s scene sets up conflict effectively and potentially hooks readers, there is no followup to the scene in this issue. While I fully expect Taylor to revisit Aquaman later on in the series, this scene on its own doesn’t really connect to the specific content in this issue, other than showing how far the virus reaches. The same can be said for Harley and Ivy’s scene. While the dialogue is good and I appreciate the pep talk that Ivy gives to Harley, there is no followup to this scene either. All the Aquaman and Harley scenes have to offer is strictly setup and no actual plot. We don’t see Aquaman doing anything, small or big, that contributes to a personal arc, and so Aquaman’s inclusion feels more like a plot device than anything. Now, Harley does take specific action in the final panel of her scene, and the cliffhanger is pretty exciting, but still I feel like the scene stands out a bit too much when compared to the A plot and the Green Arrow/Black Canary section. To me, it feels like Harley’s part exists inside its own little bubble, and therefore it diminishes the focus on the A plot. For a comic that’s otherwise nicely polished, I wish that there was more connectivity between these scenes to make the narrative stronger. It’s not the end of the world, or anything—just a missed opportunity.
This isn’t the only missed opportunity, though. See, I absolutely love the Green Arrow/Black Canary/Green Lantern scene in the woods. Their banter is great, and it’s a lot of fun seeing Ollie and Dinah trolling Hal. I think it’s exactly the kind of humor that this otherwise poignant comic needs. However, Hal falls victim to the techno-virus, and though Dinah and Ollie both look very shocked when they realize what’s happened to their dear friend, they also seem to forget about it really quickly in the next couple of panels. Yes, you could argue that they are going into hero mode and that they can’t afford to spend time grieving their best friend. You could also argue that Taylor might include a scene in which Ollie and Dinah are grieving Hal in a later issue, when the characters actually have time to do so. Yet…Hal is Ollie and Dinah’s best friend, and the fact that an actual deep emotional response is lacking is another missed opportunity in my opinion. But, despite my criticism, I do want to add that Hal Jordan’s death allows for something really cool to happen, something I’m really excited about! I’m not going to spoil it here, though. You’ll have to buy the book to find out what it is.
Moving on to the more positive stuff, especially the final scene is gripping and powerful. I love how Damian, earlier in the book, declares his faith in his father, how he has no doubt that Batman will be fine. But, as we’ve seen in issue #1, Nightwing bit Batman’s neck, and now Batman is in a bit of a pickle. What follows is an emotional scene in which Batman addresses his son. I appreciate how Taylor builds up the scene through heartfelt and honest dialogue. Everyone’s trying to come up with solutions to Batman’s problem, but Batman tells them to shut up and focus and listen carefully. As the scene continues, there are several closeups on Damian’s face as he comes to realize what exactly is happening to his father. Taylor doesn’t overdo it by making this more dramatic than necessary, but gives us just enough of everyone’s reactions so we can relate to the characters’ feelings without their reactions being on-the-nose or exaggerated. And the final cliffhanger at the end is as abrupt as it is brutal, and I expect it to carry a ton of weight especially for Batman fans.
The artwork, by Trevor Hairsine (pencils), Stefano Gaudiano (inks) and Rain Beredo (colors), is a bit of a mixed bag for me. The team creates amazing horror visuals. If you look at the Aquaman scene, for example, there is a wide panel filled with zombies, which are crawling about, bleeding all over the place, and in the background we see a shocked Aquaman overlooking the gorefest. The team also creates great backgrounds: we see a burning city; bright flames and smoke rise from crumbling buildings, and the flames are reflected by the water—it’s true end-of-the-world imagery. Yet, I am not always a fan of how the artists render the characters. While the proportions and body language and the poses are fine, it’s particularly the characters’ faces that tend to look off. Their eyes are too far apart, and the shapes of their heads change from panel to panel. Despite this, though, the emotion on their faces still looks believable and makes the characters look more lifelike, which truly adds to the narrative.
- You are a fan of Green Arrow, Black Canary and Hal Jordan.
- You’re ready for a few chilling cliffhangers.
- You’re into gory, bloody artwork.
- You’re a fan of Bruce and Damian’s dynamic and relationship.
Overall: DCeased #2 is certainly a fun read, although connectivity between certain scenes is lacking, which results in this reading more like a collection of scenes than a flowing narrative. Of course I fully expect Taylor to return to the scenes in question and make them relevant later, but in my opinion, within the pages of this issue, they end up derailing the plot somewhat. However, the action, the dialogue, the artwork, the emotion and the final cliffhanger more than make up for this shortcoming. Recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.