DCeased: Dead Planet #1 review

And the story of DCeased continues! This sequel is set five years after the original miniseries. At the end of the original, the surviving superheroes fled to Earth-2, and at the start of this sequel, some of those heroes have to return to the zombie-infested world from whence they came.

As far as first chapters go, this one is really solid. It’s emotional, funny, action-packed, and has the necessary quiet moments to break up some of the tension and to allow us to form an emotional connection with the characters. The dialogue is tight and the pacing is on point. The issue also has a lot of different story beats to offer, which, even if they aren’t directly connected, still serve a clear purpose. For example, the fight between the new Justice League and the aliens on Earth-2 isn’t just a fun way to open up the comic, but it also manages a little bit of world-building so we get an idea of what the survivors’ new world is like and what sort of trouble they get into.

That said, the purpose behind these scenes is sometimes so clear that it works against the storytelling. One thing that really stands out to me is when a certain character gets a relatively long quiet moment that’s both funny and somewhat dire if you think about it, and immediately I get the feeling that this character is going to get killed. Without giving away who this character is: yes, this person does die in this issue. Since I had predicted it almost immediately, the shock of that character’s death is completely gone and it just ends up being a moment where I roll my eyes, shake my head, and wish that it didn’t happen like that.

On the other hand, I suppose that someone has to die in this first issue to hammer home once more that really nobody is safe in this book, no matter how powerful, funny or heroic they may be. Taylor and his artists want you to worry throughout this story, and from what I’ve seen in the previous DCeased books, some of the deaths can be really shocking, painful or outright sad, so I expect more of that in the upcoming Dead Planet chapters.

Now, you might be wondering why these characters decide to return to Earth. I think there is a pretty good reason for this. It’s a somewhat simple reason from a story-telling perspective, but it works. It turns out that Cyborg is still alive. Yes, Wonder Woman tore off his head in the original series, but his systems are still operational and he’s able to send a distress signal. The new Justice League picks up on that signal and decides to go on a rescue mission.

While that stuff works for me as a premise, the execution is, admittedly, a little bit wonky. This is by no means a deal breaker to me, as it doesn’t hurt the story, but when you stop to think about some of these things, it can get a little silly. For example, how can that distress signal reach another dimension? That seems rather convenient to me. Another thing that seems somewhat cliché to me is the fact that Cyborg can send this signal because Batman put a secret tracker in his system. This works, but Batman hacking the League and keeping files on everyone and having all these plans to take down his allies is such an overused concept that I’ve grown tired of it. Lastly, the League knows that Cyborg deliberately stayed behind because the virus started with him, so why everyone unanimously votes for sending a rescue party isn’t entirely clear to me. The only one to protest this is Green Arrow, but even he goes along with it in the end. Sure, going back for an old friend is what these heroes would do, but they know the risk. Even if they can bring back Cyborg, who’s to say that this stuff won’t happen again on Earth-2? But, of course, these are nitpicks. What makes this premise particularly powerful is the idea that Cyborg has been lying in the mud for five years, without a body, staring at the sky. That’s absolutely horrific, and I love it.

This issue mainly succeeds in setting up the new storyline because of the following two things: 1) It is suggested that there might be a cure for the virus, which potentially sends the heroes on a quest to find it, and so a focus for this new storyline is introduced right away; 2) The vessel with which the heroes traveled back to Earth crashes, so they don’t have an easy way to escape. Combined with the fact that everyone can die, this raises the stakes significantly, and creates incentive to keep reading.

As for the artwork, I really like Hairsine’s work in this issue. I remember not liking it as much in the original series, mainly because I think his faces looked a bit strange, but that didn’t bother me as much here. What I appreciate the most about the art is how the characters behave and move around. For example, during a scene with Dinah and Ollie, they behave a little melodramatic, but there’s a comedic effect to it: they’re just playing, trying to make each other laugh as a way to settle an argument and deal with the fact that they’re about to head back to their original Earth. There’s another scene where Jon is reunited with Krypto, and it’s probably my favorite panel in the book; both Jon and Krypto look so happy to see each other again that I literally cheered when I first laid eyes on that panel.

But besides these fantastic character moments, there is great energy to the splash pages and big action sequences. Hairsine always finds a way to build to these big, impactful moments. For instance, on the page before the double-page splash on which the heroes’ aircraft goes down, Hairsine emphasizes the upward direction by having the flying heroes take to the sky in the first panel. A few panels later, we see the aircraft, still intact. The final panel on the page shows Dinah, looking up, concerned. These are small details, but they cue in the crash on the next page effectively. It lets the reader know that something big is coming up, but just how big you won’t find out until you flip the page. This is but one example of the many well-crafted pages in this issue.

Recommended if…

  • DCeased is your jam!
  • You want to see what the survivors from the original series are up to, five years later.
  • You are looking for a book that balances wit, humor and high stakes well.

Overall: This is a good start to this new series, and Taylor has a good grasp on these characters. The stakes are high, the story has a clear premise and focus, and Hairsine draws some really good-looking pages and action sequences. This is a solid product. Recommended!

Score: 8.5/10

Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.