DCeased has been such a fun ride, and it’s impressive how Taylor and his artists have mostly been able to maintain a high level of quality. These stories are fast-paced, concise, emotional and action-packed, and even though I was somewhat critical of earlier issues in the original series, it seems like this story is just getting better and better as we go along. But is the creative team able to maintain that level of quality in this issue as well? Let’s have a look!
In my opinion, this issue features Hairsine’s best work so far on this title. Yes, I still think the faces and eyes look weird at times, and I still struggle with the anatomy of certain characters in certain panels (for example, when Superman appears to have a really long neck, or when Constantine’s hand seems unnaturally large). But Taylor scripts awe-inspiring moments where Hairsine can really unleash his creative powers, such as an incredible two-page spread of an undead Plastic Man that’s trying to swallow a ball of plants created by Swamp Thing to shield our heroes.
Hairsine isn’t doing this alone, though. Baldassini’s inks are quite subtle in the sense that these aren’t very thick lines or heavy shadows, and so it blends well with the pencils and the colors. The shadows create a good sense of depth, and the lines make it easy to tell characters apart from the backgrounds. Beredo’s colors are rich, varied and layered; sometimes they are vibrant (for example, the hellfire that we see on the opening pages), and sometimes they are more muted (for example, when we find our heroes inside the ball of plants on the first page). Visually, this book just looks great, apart from the nitpicks that I have with regards to Hairsine’s characters.
What I appreciate the most is how much energy there is in the art: when characters are reunited and happy to see each other again, like when Damian and Gordon hug each other, I feel their joy by looking at their body language and expressions. When I see Krypto’s happy mug, I can’t help but feel happy myself, especially as a dog person. The fight scenes are very dynamic, even the single panels that present a snapshot from a fight sequence: for example, when Swamp Thing is fighting off a bunch of gunmen, throwing them around and absorbing their bullets. And, of course, the horror is on point: I will never forget these twisted renditions of the Anti-Life Plastic Man! It’s horrifying to look at, and it’s probably my favorite horror moment from this series so far.
The only thing that I’m not a fan of is how the artists render Cobblepot: he’s too tall and lean, and if it wasn’t for the umbrella, the monocle and the weird nose, he might just as well have been another rich person.
That said, such solid art isn’t possible without a solid script. Taylor’s dialogue is great in this issue. There’s some exposition in the opening pages that might have been off-putting to me had it been delivered in any other way. But Constantine’s matter-of-fact tone makes it work for me, and it helps that he’s explaining what’s going on to another character who genuinely doesn’t know. I think that in a lot of recent publications the dialogue isn’t natural, because it’s so obvious to me that the writer is trying to explain something to the audience through the characters, rather than making sure that the characters are engaging in a realistic conversation from which readers can organically draw their own conclusions. Even though the characters in this issue can be straight-to-the-point, I think this approach fits the context of the scenes in which this happens, because in these scenes the characters simply don’t have the time to have a full conversation. Time is of the essence, so explanations need to be fast and clear.
The dialogue does slow down in other scenes, though. I am a big fan of the conversation between Damian and Gordon. It’s not a long conversation, but it speaks to the shared history between these characters, and sheds some light on their personal relationships with Bruce Wayne. With just a handful of lines, Taylor manages a lot of character work that allows readers to care about these characters. Here, we see them in a positive, inspiring moment. Yet, we also see darker moments. For example, toward the end, when Constantine seeks out a hero who has gone into hiding. Perhaps this hero changes their mind a little bit too quickly for some readers, but I think it works, because they don’t change their mind until Constantine says that there is a cure for the Anti-Life Equation.
What I like most of all is how dynamic this comic is. Characters enter and exit scenes; transitions between different scenes are easy and well-done; and we see various environments and places that are in stark contrast to one another. There is action, and there are quiet moments where we get to know the characters better and during which characters bond with each other. There is horror and friendship and fun and grief. And, best of all, these different elements blend so well that it makes for a smooth reading experience. This is definitely my favorite comic this week, and my favorite issue of this series so far.
- You’re a fan of John Constantine!
- You want a comic that balances action and character moments expertly.
- You’re looking for great superhero art with strong horror flavors.
Overall: This comic is really good! From the script to the art, the action and character moments are all solid. This issue is also a mixed bag that evokes different emotions, from joy to sadness to horror. DCeased may have seemed like a bit of a gimmick upon the original series’ initial release, but Taylor and his artists have created a rich and intriguing world within the DC Universe with great characters that we can all root for. Recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.