If there’s one thing that I appreciate about Taylor’s writing, it’s his ability to balance action, drama and comedy. Of course there are jokes that don’t really work for me, or dramatic moments that could be tightened up, but, on the whole, these various elements are implemented organically and create a unique and fun tone of voice that makes most of Taylor’s work a joy to read, even when it’s a horror story. Dead Planet #2 is a good example of this.
This is a serious issue. There is humor, but it mostly comes from timing and action. There are some puns here and there too, but for the most part the comedy takes a backseat to horror and drama. For example, when the heroes from Earth-2 make it to Poison Ivy’s garden and Cyborg tells everyone that there’s a cure for the virus, we get to see the shock on everyone’s faces as they realize how many of their loved ones and friends they killed over the past five years. Therefore, the notion of a cure isn’t celebrated. I’m glad that Taylor includes this in the story, because it humanizes these heroes. The timing also seems just right to me: if the creative team had made this scene longer, things would likely have become melodramatic, which might have ruined the moment. Besides, the heroes have a lot on their minds and need to get to work: there is no time to stop and ponder all these things at length in the moment itself.
Furthermore, there are a lot of moving parts. Not only do we follow the heroes from Earth-2, but we also get to see what the Shadowpact is up to—a team of superheroes consisting of John Constantine, Blue Devil, Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Ragman, Red Hood and Ravager. Swamp Thing also shows up, and asks the Shadowpact to come with him to Australia to investigate a mystery. Meanwhile, Jon Kent is badly injured and needs medical attention. Green Arrow—who got turned into a zombie in the previous issue—isn’t allowed into Ivy’s garden. Black Canary, who has Green Arrow caught inside a light construct sphere, refuses to leave her lover behind, and decides to leave the garden with him.
DCeased has always been a fast-paced series. I know some of you don’t like that, or at least wish that these stories were longer. But in this case it works really well, because all the plot developments are engaging. The quest for the cure is the story’s main focus, but the Shadowpact’s mission creates another layer to the narrative because what they are facing exactly remains a mystery for the time being, and it’s intriguing. Especially the cliffhanger at the end is absolutely fantastic, as it teases three villains that will play a role in the upcoming issues, and it ends with a wonderfully horrific scene that really makes me want to find out what happens next.
Something that I don’t like as much is that many of these heroes are dropping like flies. Yes, I am used to it after having read and reviewed previous DCeased series, but I am not a fan of introducing and killing off characters in the same chapter. Of course most readers picking up a DCeased issue will already be familiar with these characters, but to those who have never seen them before, their deaths will not be as impactful. Killing of superheroes left and right can also come off as shock for the sake of shock, even when it’s not intended as such. While some of these deaths are functional in that they motivate other heroes to take actions, I think that there are also a few unceremonious deaths that just seem unnecessary to me. For example, a hero dies in the opening scene, and nobody acknowledges it, and even the narrative itself forgets that it happened. Then there are heroes who die toward the end, and I don’t think those deaths are earned; it’s like those heroes are just in this issue to swiftly destroy a large group of zombies and then die. There is more to these characters than that. They aren’t supposed to turn into random cannon fodder. In the end, they aren’t much more than plot devices in this comic, and that seems a little cheap to me.
The artwork is really good, though! I am noticing Hairsine’s odd-looking faces again, but there are also panels where they actually look quite good. In other panels the proportions of characters don’t really work out (for example, Constantine appears to have a giant hand in one panel), but the character designs, layouts and sequence of panels are all very solid. What I like the most about the art is how well it expresses emotion and horror. Especially the final pages are awe-inspiring because, to me, what we see is just utterly terrifying, and that’s how I like my horror. Despite not being fully on board with the deaths that occur on these pages, this is my favorite DCeased cliffhanger. But the art doesn’t just shine during these bigger action sequences; there are quiet moments where the body language and expressions are so well done that these characters really come to life. I think I will always have minor complaints about Hairsine’s work—mainly the faces—but his art has really started to grow on me.
- You love John Constantine.
- You want to indulge in some gory horror visuals, particularly on the final pages of this issue.
Overall: DCeased continues to be a lot of fun. This book has solid writing and art, and the story is intriguing and exciting. If you’ve been reading DCeased comics, definitely pick this one up. If you are new to all of this, and if you can still get a copy of the first issue, and you are a fan of superhero zombie horror, then I recommend giving this one a shot as well!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.