Since issue #4’s cliffhanger, I have been wondering where Taylor and Hairsine are taking this story, and I can safely say that, after reading #5, I still have no clue. What I do know is that this issue is crazy. A rollercoaster ride. So, let’s waste no time and have a look.
DCeased, as a whole, has been moving at the speed of light, and the series’ main focus has been on plot over character moments. In our weekly feature This Week in Comics we have discussed how this series could have benefited from a couple more issues, to flesh out the characters more. In previous issues, as well as in this issue, there are various moments that make me feel like something is missing. For example, Dinah appears to have already mastered her power ring. She can raise an entire building in the air with a giant, protective light-construct bubble. While it’s totally awesome to see Dinah as a powerful Green Lantern, it just seems too convenient for me. I could get past her adept ringslinging if only Dinah had a more fleshed out character arc. She hasn’t been contributing much to the progression of the story except for doing a lot of heavy lifting. With a more fleshed out character arc, this heavy lifting stuff would’ve been fine. Without such an arc, she seems more like a badass plot device to me. That is not to say that she needs to be front and center, but a little more character development certainly wouldn’t hurt.
But the character moments that are included are really good! There is a moment in the book where Lex Luthor stands before Superman and calls for a truce. We see a broken Luthor, who falls to his knees as Superman hovers before him. In the last panel of this scene, we see Lex looking up at Superman. Superman is out of frame and the illustration is a close-up on Lex’s face. In the past I’ve said how I dislike some of Hairsine’s face work, but his style has definitely grown on me. It is Hairsine’s illustration that really activates Taylor’s words. Despite not always liking the aesthetic of Hairsine’s work, I think this artist is a great storyteller and really has an eye for perspective. He could’ve rendered this scene in as many ways as he could imagine, but choosing the close-up is effective, straight to the point, and heartfelt.
Those words—effective, straight to the point, and heartfelt—could be used to describe this issue in particular. To get back to the earlier point about how this series might have benefited from a few more issues, there is a flipside. This issue has a slow start. We mostly see people agreeing with each other, and with effective use of exposition Taylor manages to cover a lot of ground. We see our heroes regrouping and focusing on their goals. There is some friction here and there, and some of our heroes run into a big zombie with teeth, but all of this is swiftly dealt with. It was at this point that I began to wonder when disaster would strike. As I was reading, I found that I wasn’t invested in the story because it all just kind of happened. In the blink of an eye we go from destroyed cities to building arks that can fit seven million people and it all just seemed too easy. Of course, all of that is intentional.
Because disaster strikes out of nowhere! Once the story kicks into high gear, it doesn’t stop. There is an epic clash between two characters, and the outcome has an enormous impact on the plot. Even though it happens very fast, I was immersed in the sequence because of Hairsine’s dynamic action shots and Taylor’s suspenseful writing. Sometimes in comics I feel that narration during fight scenes can be distracting. In this case, the narration slows down the experience of witnessing the events as they unfold, allowing you to really take in what’s happening. The outcome of the clash really has me wondering how Taylor and Hairsine are going to wrap up this story in the next issue, because anything can happen now.
A final point I want to make about the pacing and the aforementioned scene is that this is a good example of Taylor keeping up the pace and making good use of his momentum. Yes, this story focuses more on plot than on characters, but the way it carries forward the plot is executed well. I stand by my point that this series would have been better if there was more focus on characters, but Taylor has picked his moments to zero in on events carefully. Even in a story this fast, there are deeply personal moments that are sometimes endearing and sometimes heartbreaking, and it’s those personal moments that inject identity into an otherwise straight-up disaster story.
Before I wrap this up, I have a couple more points. First, the dialogue is mostly streamlined and concise, but there are a few moments that stand out to me as weird. For example, there’s a moment where Lex Luthor asks if Batman is dead, and after hearing that that is the case, he states how he is now the most intelligent person in the world. On the one hand I think it’s interesting that Luthor admits this, but on the other hand, this stuff feels off-beat. It interrupts the flow of the scene for me and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take this as a joke or seriously, but neither works for me. There are a couple more examples, but this is the one that stood out the most to me.
Second, I like how this issue isn’t all doom and gloom. While there are certainly no laugh-out-loud jokes, there are a few light-hearted and endearing moments. Even though there aren’t many of these, it’s nice to have a few brief moments that can make you smile. I feel that these moments are timed right so that they balance out the darkness, and at the same time they are subtle and anything but jarring shifts in tone. It all feels very organic. This is not an easy thing to do.
Last, at a certain point in this issue, a character has to say goodbye. This character’s goodbye speech is written well. Because there’s barely enough time for a proper goodbye, the character needs to get to the point, and so the essence of the character’s message is clear. In this way, Taylor also manages to avoid melodrama and he manages to make this scene hit hard. It’s honest writing.
- You are ready to cry.
- You want to find out what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object.
Overall: I definitely enjoy this issue a lot. I still miss a little bit more focus on characters, but Taylor makes good use of the fast pacing and succeeds at hitting you in the face out of nowhere. Hairsine’s work is great—the way he frames the scenes and the way he renders the emotions really make this book come to life. The book has a slow start, but once the breaks are off—oh boy! Seriously, this is a good read. Recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.