"The Dead #4" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by James Maddox
Illustrated by Jen Hickman
2014, 24 Pages, $0.99
Comic released on February 11th, 2015
Just when Sam thought he'd figured out this whole afterlife thing, he's thrown a big curveball. The big currency in "The House" is bottles, and Sam has gotten pretty good at tracking down rare and elusive ones, which has made him a bit of a local celebrity. He's still dead, but at least he's a little more comfortable. He's then joined by an exposition-heavy little girl to provide him with a new goal.
There are many moving parts to The Dead, each adding to a complex explanation of the afterlife. Writer James Maddox has crafted this very unique and intriguing setup in which you continue to live a pseudo-life in "The House", which is basically a series of interconnected rooms, each created by a different person. Some rooms are elaborate and look like a city square, while others are smaller and more personal. People can roam in and out of different rooms.
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This issue begins to really pull a few of the plot threads together. We get a bit of a backstory behind Alex and why he's so emo all the time, although we don't find out why he never wears a shirt. Is that just how he died? That would explain Sam's parachute pants, I guess. We also revisit Arthur, the strange man that Sam encountered early in his travels. which ties into the weird bald guy on the TV we also saw earlier. Plus, there's a monster zoo! Nothing can go wrong with that idea, right?
What's great about The Dead is that it's not a one-stop-shop for the afterlife. It's not Heaven or Hell. It's kind of whatever you want it to be. It reminds me a bit of Dead Letters in that people go on with a life, albeit a very different one, even after they've shuffled off this mortal coil. It's possible to "die" in The House and the results are pretty grim. I'm curious to see if some of the monsters are perhaps other people that have been mutated during their time in this world.
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While The Dead presents some heady concepts at times, it's softened quite a bit by Jen Warren's artwork. She has a very fun style that takes some of the seriousness out of the terror that the characters find themselves in. You can almost forget that they're all dead at times. The designs for the monsters are varied and pretty horrifying. The one that really stands out in this issue has rows of jagged teeth and what appear to be nails sticking out of its body. It's a gruesome looking creature and unlike anything I've seen before.
I'm also a little disappointed in myself that it took me four issues to realize that Alex's tattoos change. His whole upper body is covered in text and it changes based on his mood. For example, someone touches him on the shoulder and his arm reads, "The fuck does he think he's doing?" That's more of a thought, but the big tattoo on his chest often reveals his emotions. This is just another reason that he should probably wear a shirt because you can literally read him like a book.
I'm not sure where The Dead is going just yet, but that's part of the fun. It's unpredictable. Maddox has thrown a bunch of characters into a powder keg and something's going to give. Bringing Arthur back into the mix and learning of his history adds a further monkey wrench because this could drastically change how things are done in The House.