"The Gravediggers Union #8" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written by Wes Craig
Illustrated by Toby Cypress
Colored by Niko Guardia
Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on July 4th, 2018
The Space-Monkey is the key to the apocalypse and the Gravediggers have to pull out all the stops to keep it safe. The Black Temple wants to kill the poor thing with a special ancient blade to bring about the end of the world. This is more than an epic battle for the fate of humankind. It's personal too. Cole, a senior Gravedigger, has a horse in this race, as his daughter Morgan is working with the Black Temple as their prophet of the apocalypse. In a desperate attempt to reason with her, he reaches out by supernatural means to communicate with his estranged child.
The Gravediggers Union is a weird book, just in case you didn't get that from the opening paragraph of this review. That being said, it's got a lot of heart and some pretty awesome monsters. You can also draw parallels between the Black Temple and certain ruling factions in the US and around the world, which heightens the terror considerably.
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The interaction between Cole and Morgan is touching and interesting. The two don't just talk about old times; they have a debate about the merits of saving a corrupt and broken society. Cole recognizes that people can be flawed, but there's still goodness within them that's worth protecting. Morgan sees it the opposite way, in favor of tearing it all down to start anew. Yes, this world created people like Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi, but it also killed them and created monsters.
Just after this tense conversation, The Gravediggers Union jumps into high gear, marching towards the climax of the story. The Black Temple marshals its forces, calling upon all kinds of darkness for a final assault. Artist Toby Cypress' haunting imagery is juxtaposed with writer Wes Craig's dialogue from the Gravediggers as they prepare for the upcoming assault.
Cypress' monsters are out of this world. We get zombies, which are pretty standard although entirely unique here, with entrails hanging out and chains around their necks. We also get creatures that should not exist in this world. These otherworldly abominations are cobbled together by evil and dark magic like a deformed creation of Frankenstein. They march towards the Gravediggers' hideout in near silence. The only sounds coming out are the haunting moans of the undead, expertly rendered by letterer Jared K. Fletcher.
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This approach is super creepy as it alternates between these monsters walking towards the hideout and the Gravediggers making final arrangements to get ready for what might be their last battle. It creates a nice contrast between complete despair and hope.
Niko Guardia's colors create a never-ending twilight with eerie reds and purples swirling through the air. As the sun sets on this story, it could also set on the lives of these people. Guardia makes the book look and feel gritty, like it's an old exploitation film.
As cool as all this is, my favorite part of The Gravediggers Union #8 comes in a single page without a piece of dialogue. It's a flashback to what really happened to Cole's wife; presented in black, white, and grey, this heartbreaking scene speaks volumes. It ends with a single dark panel with the sound “SHUNK,” which fills in all the blanks.
The Gravediggers Union is marching towards an epic battle of good against evil with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Humanity's salvation rests in the hands of this ragtag group of Gravediggers, armed with shovels, pick-axes, and bear traps. Will that be enough to stop the apocalypse? We better hope so.