DCeased as a whole has had its ups and downs. There have been outstanding moments, and there have been certain creative choices that I disagree with. Still, I’ve enjoyed this series…up until this point. I’m afraid that the creative team has lost me.
I just wasn’t enjoying this issue. For starters, I’m not a fan of the way that the dialogue is constructed. Sometimes it’s rather shallow and doesn’t add much to a given scene, for example when Constantine asks Phantom Stranger if they’ve ever hooked up, to which Phantom Stranger replies that they never have, but that Constantine did drunkenly hit on him in front of Ganthet and Zeus before passing out. This could’ve worked as a joke in a different context or in a more satirical type of comic, but since it happens in the middle of an otherwise serious exchange, it ends up being completely out of place and takes me out of the scene. Nothing about it feels natural. It’s forced and awkwardly written.
Another example of shallow dialogue is when Damian asks Jon, after the latter has returned from a mission, if he ran into any trouble. Jon replies that he didn’t, except for the fact that someone tried to kill him. Damian then says, “Well, that’s to be expected.” And the conversation just ends there. There’s no reflection whatsoever. Little underdeveloped bits like this, sprinkled throughout the issue, don’t tell us anything significant about the characters or the events and, perhaps more importantly, hammer home just how predictable and unexciting this story has become. If the characters aren’t impressed and just casual about certain risks that they are taking, involving some of their dearest friends, then I don’t see why I, as a reader, should care anymore, either.
When the dialogue isn’t shallow, it’s somewhat overcooked. For example, in the opening pages a character threatens another by saying, “Considering I am the sole commander of a super-powered, artificially intelligent army that could destroy the very planet you’re standing on, maybe you should review your tone?” Well, they’ve lost me halfway through that sentence, and so this doesn’t sound threatening to me at all. It’s just a mouthful of words. Threats generally work better when they are to the point and snappy.
Another example: at some point Damian says, “We need knowledge. If only we had one of the world’s greatest biochemists with us.” The only reason I can see why this is written in this way is because Taylor is trying to build suspense, but to me it’s clear that he’s talking about Swamp Thing from the get-go. Besides, this is also a rather unnatural way of speaking, because why would Damian try to keep his friends in suspense in this situation? Why wouldn’t he just straight-up tell them, “We need Swamp Thing”?
These are just a couple examples. Throughout the issue the dialogue’s kind of stiff and uninspired. Even when characters say things that they would typically say, their tone of voice is still so similar to almost every other character’s that the dialogue mostly sounds monotone. I don’t think that there are any truly interesting discussions here, nor do I feel that there are any noteworthy character beats. The dialogue advances the plot, and that’s about it.
But it’s not just the dialogue. We’re skipping past interesting stuff, like the moment where Batman and other heroes telepathically link up to figure out how to create the cure that they have been after since the start. We don’t get to see the process. We don’t really understand what they are doing. We just see everyone lying between plants with their eyes closed. This could have been an interesting moment to see what happens when the mind of Batman interfaces with the minds of Swamp Thing, Mary Marvel, Detective Chimp, and others. But instead the comic asks of us to just blindly go along with this and trust that the heroes have figured things out.
That isn’t the only time that Taylor takes the easy way out, though. For example, in order to mass produce the cure, The Flash reads every single book and research paper that he can find about production. But being able to read each of these texts once in only ten minutes doesn’t automatically mean that he can also apply all this knowledge, let alone become an expert on the subject—that is not, as far as I know, how the Speed Force works.
Perhaps the best example of the sheer convenience and nonexistence of challenges is when a group of heroes sets out to test the cure on another hero who is still a zombie. Without giving away who are involved, the scene literally plays out like this: heroes swoop in, cure the person, and we’re done. The comic tries to create stakes, but we only get a single page, consisting of five panels (four of which are rather small) where there’s a very brief struggle. Then, flipping the page, the hero is suddenly cured.
This issue’s saving grace is when someone gets lured into a trap and gets double-crossed by another character, which I didn’t see coming. But that is such a brief moment, during which it’s already pretty much confirmed that the betrayed character will be all right in the end, that it still doesn’t quite hold up. It also leads to yet another fan-service for the sake of fan-service moment where Constantine harnesses the powers of Shazam. Look, I get it, these comics should be fun and these things should, perhaps, not be taken so seriously—but I don’t buy that Constantine has a pure heart, which is required to wield those powers. Constantine’s simply done too many messed up things over the course of his publication history.
Lastly, before moving on to art commentary, there’s Trigon. The way it’s framed, he just shows up and starts doing his thing, and while this reveal is functional for the plot, it’s just kind of like, “Well, here he is, guys…” I think it would have been better if Trigon was saved for the final issue. His reveal could have been an energizing and exciting moment for this story, but now that ship has sailed.
There is energy to at least some of the art, though. When characters fly and attack, it’s kinetic and powerful. For example, the splash page that shows off the swarm of Amazos, spreading out and burning everything in their path with their heat vision, setting fire to the landscape and the zombies. Furthermore, the composition of the illustration of Swamp Thing and the others lying on the ground is great. The various plants make for a visually stunning background, and the different costumes offer some nice aesthetic variety. Remove the captions, and that’s your cover right there.
But not all of the backgrounds are as interesting. Some are bland and sometimes they’re even nonexistent. Moreover, it seems the script doesn’t allow for a lot of exciting panels or layouts, as heroes often just stand about, talking, rather than leaping into action, or doing anything particularly interesting at all. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this inherently, and this does make the few fight scenes stand out more, but at the end of the day it results in a book where, if you’d flip through it, not a whole lot seems to be happening. That said, the coloring and the shading is really good throughout, as the varied palette makes even the most static panels very easy on the eye, and the shading creates a nice sense of depth. Still, had the script been better paced and allowed for more interesting visuals, this book could have looked even better.
- It’s the penultimate issue. If you’ve been picking up DCeased since the beginning, you might as well see it through.
Overall: This isn’t a terrible comic. I might seem overly critical, but the fact is that I don’t find much of this stuff praiseworthy. DCeased has run out of steam: it feels like there aren’t any stakes, and so many heroes have died that I’ve become numb to it, and the story is dragging at this stage. I hope that the creative team can end this story on a high note, but I’m afraid that I’m just no longer invested…
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.