Indie Comics Spotlight: The Dying and the Dead, Munchkin, The Disease

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)


The Dying and the Dead #1

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“If you think about it, they died the moment they made their choice.”

Life is meant to be lived. It’s full of ups and downs, highs and lows. It inevitably ends in death, which makes everyone dying from the moment they’re born. Being able to cheat death in exchange for an offer of extended life is tantalizing indeed. In Image Comics’ The Dying and the Dead #1, it’s an idea that’s explored to great effect. The issue is written by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Ryan Bodenheim, colored by Michael Garland and lettered by Rus Wooton.

A murder at a wedding sets off a series of reactions, unraveling secrets hundreds of years old. At great cost, a man with a dying wife named Colonel Edward Canning is given the opportunity to save her. A lost tribe is reborn in another time. Seemingly unconnected events that force relics from the Greatest Generation to come together for one last hurrah. 

Hickman is one of the hottest (and busiest) writers around right now, which makes what he accomplishes in The Dying and the Dead #1so much more amazing. The story is paced extremely methodically, with Hickman slowly peeling back the layers of Colonel Canning’s world and revealing piece by piece slowly. By the end of it, you come to realize that he’s done an awful lot of narrative despite the book feeling as if he’s not really telling the reader anything. It’s masterful storytelling at its best, carried largely by the characterization of Canning as a man willing to make a Faustian bargain to save the woman he loves. He’s perfectly portrayed as equal parts hopeful and cynical, presenting as someone willing to make tough decisions with an almost reckless abandon.

While Hickman’s plot is intricately detailed, Bodenheim’s illustrations are alarmingly simple. Despite this, Bodenheim does a phenomenal job with clean, concise line work that work marvelously to add detail to a world that’s otherwise fairly normal. Scenery is by and large fairly vague, but it’s presented in a way way that still manages to convey all manner of information about the world of The Dying and the Dead #1 and the characters. Bodenheim’s ability to convey a wide array of emotions despite the seemingly simple art style is a testament to his talent as well, with character’s sporting sophisticated facial expressions appropriate for the sentiment of the page. Garland’s colors are washed out and muted, adding to the atmosphere of 1969 when the book takes place.

The Dying and the Dead #1 feels special. It’s a great first issue that nails every aspect of a new comic, refusing to stumble on any one aspect of it. Hickman’s writing talents shouldn’t be questioned at this point, as he’s proven he can craft an elaborate and heady tale with the best of them. Bodenheim’s illustrations are elegant and appropriately portray the world of Colonel Canning, right down to the somewhat outlandish concept of a lost city. The Dying and the Dead #1 is one of the best new books you can read and definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of potentially sweeping and philosophical epics.

The Dying and the Dead #1 is in stores now.

The Disease

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“Feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. Didn’t think I drunk that much last night.”

The rules of the apocalypse are simple: stay alive and survive. You could argue they’re essentially one and the same in essence, but that doesn’t make them any less important. In The Disease, one man is forced to contend with a destroyed world, ravenous zombies and an isolated mentality. The one-shot is written by James Mulholland, illustrated by Daniel Romero and lettered by Micah Myers.

An elder man named Gerry wakes up in the attic of his Irish countryside house. But when his family isn’t around, he wanders outside his house into an Irish town, where the unknown is awaiting him. The world has fallen apart and he knows nothing about it, save that it’s coming for him next.

The Disease starts off rather formulaic for a disaster, post-apocalyptic tale. Mulholland puts Gerry through the expected paces; lack of knowledge surrounding the new world, seeking out other humans and reconciling the notion that all he knew and loved is gone. WhereThe Disease deviates from the norm is the reveal about Gerry himself. Gerry is going through his own problems that make dealing with the apocalypse that much more difficult and–quite frankly–Mulholland’s approach here is quite brilliant. He manages to make the book work exceedingly well, but handicapping Gerry in a way that forces him to constant readjust how he approaches survival.

Taking a cue from The Walking Dead visually as well, The Disease relies solely on black and white illustrations to convey the new world. Romero’s style is somewhat haphazard at times, as he moves between clean, close-up shots of characters rife with detail to more distant shots that are slightly more vague. As with many black and white books, there are a few panels where it’s a little hard to discern what’s going on, primarily owing to characters in close proximity appearing to meld together because of the blacks and white appearance. The gutters are mostly kept empty, save for a few pages where Romero fills them in with black.

The Disease starts off very familiar, but it quickly goes in a rather unique and refreshing direction. There seems to be no end in sight for Gerry’s suffering, even if he can find others like him he can band together with. Mulholland’s narrative approach is quite clever, offering a twist on the played out zombie apocalypse tale that builds to its reveal quite elegantly. Romero does a great job in depicting the action, despite relying solely on black and white tones throughout. The Disease is a smart take on an aged premise, offering a great twist that really gets you to perk up and pay even more attention.

The Disease is available at Gumroad and Sellfy.

Munchkin #1

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“Warning! You may also be betrayed.”

Munchkin is actually a very enjoyable card game. It relies on the player to be savvy and willing to risk friendships over gaining a simple level…or winning the game. That sort of game lends itself to a narrative, one which BOOM! Studios is crafting in Munchkin #1. The issue is broken into four stories. “What is a Munchkin” and “Humans Got No Class” are written by Tom Siddell, illustrated by Mike Holmes, colored by Fred Stresing and lettered by Jim Campbell. “Ready for Anything” is written by Jim Zub, illustrated by Rian Singh and lettered by Campbell. “Table of Contents” is written and illustrated by John Kovalic.

Kick open the door. Kill the monster. Steal the treasure. Screw over everybody you come in contact with. Welcome to the world of Munchkin, a gathering of stories based on the popular game series. It’s a laugh a minute, pal. Plus, every first printing of every issue will ship with an exclusive card for the game. Munchkin #1 features four stories set in and around the world of the game, featuring Spyke, Flower, and all the other characters, monsters and settings players have come to love.

If you’ve played Munchkin before, then Munchkin #1 does an exceptional job in summarizing the experience. Each story looks at the core concept of the game and spins it in a way that feels like an original story. Siddell’s work on “What is a Munchkin” and “Humans Got No Class” is straightforward and presents the concept of Munchkin to the reader, as well as the idea behind belonging to a class while playing the game. Zub’s tale is a bit more adventurous, recounting the decision-making that goes into surviving, which just so happens to include sacrificing others for your safety. The stories do add a narrative to the game itself, but there’s really not much in the way of establishing new characters or plotlines.

The art in Munchkin #1 is going to look very familiar to–again–those who have played the game. Holmes relies on a blend of fully-realized illustrations and characters who look like sketches, using the two styles to distinguish between in-game and real world. Singh’s illustrations in “Ready for Anything” feel decidedly darker, which could owe to the subject matter of that story. Spyke gets top-billing in the story and looks readily familiar as the mascot of the game, even boasting a Rat on a Stick. The colors throughout are rich and varied, as Stresing manages to make the dungeons feel a lot more alive than they probably should.

Munchkin #1 is an interesting book as it’s attempting to add a narrative to a game whose gameplay essentially dictates the narrative. The first issue tackled a few of the core concepts behind the game and where the series goes from here is anyone’s guess. Siddell and Zub do admirable jobs with their contributions, livening up the otherwise “boring” rules of the game itself. Homes and Singh do a great job bringing the characters and monsters in Munchkin to life, effectively creating a world around them that’s otherwise only created through the cards themselves. Munchkin #1 is a humorous book that capitalizes on what makes Munchkin so enjoyable to begin with, but a lot of that humor will likely go over the head (to an extent) of readers who’ve yet to play the core game the comic is based on.

Munchkin #1 is in stores now.


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