Ten years ago, Jay Faerber kicked off a very fruitful writing career at Image Comics with the release of the creator-owned “Noble Causes: First Impressions.” To celebrate the decade anniversary, Faerber launches a brand new ongoing series titled “Near Death” in September. While the crime book might seem like a departure from Faerber’s usual superhero style as seen in “Dynamo 5” and “Noble Causes,” the writer promises his tale of a hitman trying to make good on a life of murder is a story that’s been marinating in his imagination for a while, just waiting for the perfect partner in artist Simone Guglielmini.
“I’ve always been a fan of the crime genre, but for some reason in my career I’ve worked largely in the superhero genre,” Faerber told CBR News. “Part of the reason is because the comic book medium in general really slants towards superheroes. Part of it was finding the right concept and the right artist, and with ‘Near Death’ and Simone, I think I’ve found both. It’s really nice to get a chance to flex an entirely different set of muscles than people are used to seeing from me. I’m hoping they like what I bring to the genre.”
Faerber’s new series follows the story of Markham, a gun-for-hire who finds himself attempting to make up for past sins after a near death experience. “Markham is technically dead for a few minutes, and in those few minutes, he goes to Hell,” Faerber said. “Or at least, what he believes is Hell. Once he’s revived, he’s a changed man, in that he knows he never wants to see Hell again. It’s as simple as that. The readers actually get to see his Hell, but it’s nothing I want to spoil here. In order to keep from going to Hell when he dies, Markham decides he needs to balance the scales, so to speak. So he sets out to save a life for every life he’s taken. And he’s taken a lot of lives.”
Don’t be mistaken — Faerber’s not planning to present readers with a white-hat wearing force for good. Near-death experience or no, Markham’s not looking to make the world a better place, he’s solely focused on making his own personal afterlife more comfortable. Readers will witness Markham’s attempts to ensure that happens as the former assassin attempts to help the helpless.
“The format is pretty simple,” Faerber explained. “Each issue, Markham saves someone whose life is in danger. The thing is, his near death experience hasn’t made him a better man. He’s still a bastard who only cares about himself. Just because he’s saving a person, it doesn’t mean he cares about that person. These people who are in danger are merely a means to an end for him. The book itself is going to be composed largely of self-contained adventures. Each issue is a new case. Of course, there will be a narrative thread that weaves through the book, and there will be subplots. The biggest initial subplot involves charting the reactions of Markham’s former clients and colleagues now that he’s got a new line of work. Most people he knows aren’t very happy with this new development of his.”
Faerber remains tight-lipped about story details, not wanting to spoil too many elements this far out from the book’s fall release, but he does want readers to know that the “Near Death” concept had been in his head for a while and isn’t something he’s making up on the fly.
“I’ve had the idea for ‘Near Death’ for literally years, and never really pursued it either because of my workload, or because I needed to find the perfect artist,” Faerber said. “And one day I was looking over DeviantArt.com and came across Simone’s page. I was simply blown away. This is a guy who’s tailor-made for this kind of book. He loves noir. He loves drawing cars and buildings and ‘ugly people,’ in his words. I was so happy when he agreed to partner up with me.”
In the years since the idea first came to Faerber, he’s kept it all in his head, taking notes here and there, all while hoping no one else got to the idea first.
“I just hope and pray no one has the exact same idea,” Faerber said. “But even that’s not an absolute deal-breaker, since ideas are a dime a dozen and it’s the execution that really matters. In this instance, the premise was so clear and simple that I didn’t really need to take notes. All I did was take a few notes regarding character names. I should point out that we’re borrowing a bit from Spenser and Quincy, in that Markham has no first name. Or at least, none that the readers ever hear.”
Considering the project’s long gestation period and Faerber’s love of working on his own creations for Image, readers should expect “Near Death” to plug along with a specific end in sights.
“I don’t have a set number of issues in mind, but the book will work- towards a specific ending,” Faerber said. “I already know exactly how it will end. It’s just the timeframe that’s flexible. This is something new for me, too. My previous ongoing series have all been open-ended superhero books, where there was no ending I was working towards. So not only am I working in a new genre, but also with a new structure.”
“Near Death” #1 is scheduled to hit stores on September 21