Every day this month I’ll be reviewing a different independent comic book, based on submissions from the creators of the comic books themselves.
The month continues with The Deathlings #1, a horror/fantasy comic book by Ian Struckhoff, Manuela Soriani, Michela Da Sacco and Juri Hayasaka (with a handsome cover by Reuben Negron)
The gist of Struckhoff’s tale is that there exists another world that sort of overlaps with the “real world,” and in it lies mythical evil undead creatures as well as “Deathlings,” enemies/hunters of the dead who are a peculiar type of being – they’re not exactly dead people, but they’re effectively based upon dead people. They fight against the undead to protect the innocents who accidentally get caught up in the overlap of the worlds.
In this first issue, titled Anne’s Story, we meet Anne on, well, the last day of her life…and the day before the beginning of her adventure.
There are two pencilers for the comic, Manuela Soriani draws the “real world,” while Michela Da Sacco draws the dreams and the “other world,” where a mysterious Deathling known only as Ani serves to prepare Anne for what comes next through Anne’s dreams.
Juri Hayasaka provides the color artwork for the comic.
Soriani and Da Sacco deliver a pleasant mixture of styles – they are different enough to establish that we’re seeing different worlds, but they’re similar enough that the changeover isn’t jarring (I presume Hayasaka deserves a lot of the credit there, as well).
Struckhoff does a good job developing Anne to the point where the reader should be invested enough in her to care about what happens next to her (and the ending of the comic sure gives a powerful cliffhanger). The way that Anne deals with the warnings Ani sends her via her dreams is realistic and presents her with an interesting dilemma – just how seriously can you take your dreams?
The reveal of the undead towards the end of the comic was handled quite well by Struckhoff and the art team, as it is quite a startling sight to suddenly see that “normal” people you’re hanging out with at a bonfire are actually evil undead folks with malice in their hearts for you. Scary stuff.
Struckhoff takes a bit of a risk ending the comic without really delving in to what a Deathling IS, exactly, keeping things fairly vague (I presume this is to give us the powerful cliffhanger that the comic ends with). To frame the comic that way, you have to be very confident that
A. Your main character is developed enough that people want to see what happens next
B. Your cliffhanger is compelling enough to finish the issue on
And I think Struckhoff meets both requirements with this issue.
To read more about the Deathlings (including how to pre-order a copy), check out Black Label Comics’ site here.