Throughout decades of stories, DC's heroes have faced the end of the world countless times and pretty much always stave off a total apocalypse, even in stories that take place outside of the main continuity. In DCeased , writer Tom Taylor, along with artists James Harren and Trevor Hairsine, set out to upset the apple cart in a big way by giving our heroes a nightmare from which they may never wake.
From a narrative standpoint, DCeased #1 is a well-constructed book. The inciting incident that leads to complete chaos has its roots firmly planted in the realm of DC lore: Darkseid has figured out the Anti-Life Equation and the results are transmitted to Earth. From there, things take a turn for the worse, as a deadly signal turns anyone who encounters it into a raving maniac with a insatiable thirst for violence (think of a toned down version of the infected from Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows' Crossed, and you're somewhere in the neighborhood of what we're dealing with here).
Taylor has spent the last few years dismantling the DC Comics pantheon in his epic Injustice titles, and now he's doing it again, but this time with a horror bent. If you consider only the broad strokes of the story, it's easy to draw parallels to other superhero zombie comics like Marvel Zombies, but what this issue truly evokes is the 2006 novel Cell by horror legend Stephen King -- a story with a protagonist who is a comic book artist, of all things/ It also pulls from the criminally under appreciated 2007 indie horror film The Signal, and the apocalyptic horror miniseries by James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan, Memetic. This isn't to say DCeased #1 is derivative, but it does shamble over some familiar ground in the technology horror sub-genre.
This issue is all set-up, as it should be. We get the inciting event and the initial fallout, which leads to some great moments of tension and a rather horrific final splash page that will make readers wonder how the hero involved will make it out alive (maybe they won't). The fact this scenario involves some of the most recognizable superheroes in the world is certainly novel, but Tom Taylor's script is tight enough to keep if from dipping into the realm of satire. He's obviously having a blast throwing DC's characters into a terrible situation, but he's also taking the subject matter seriously enough to give it depth.
The artwork is a bit of a mixed bag, but not due to the talent behind it. Both Trevor Hairsine and James Harren are incredible artists in their own rights, but their respective styles are a bit too disparate to truly gel side by side. Harren's work, sadly seems out of place, which is heartbreaking considering how well it works in his Image Comics series Rumble. The scenes taking place in Apokolips shift way too sharply in tone to maintain a sense of visual consistency, while Hairsine's work fares much better in terms of matching the tone of the story. But honestly, either artist could have run solo in this issue and made it work as one singular artistic vision.
DCeased #1 does a lot of things right. It's well written, funny when it needs to be, and isn't afraid to lean hard into the horror aspects of its premise. The artists on the book do feel mis-matched, but their individual works, when read out of context of each other, are fantastic.
This issue is a solid start to a what could turn out to be a great horror-themed miniseries, which is something DC has been knocking out of the park lately with titles like The Batman Who Laughs. And while the story may feel a bit too familiar for some readers, the novelty of it happening on such a large scale should be enough to keep readers engaged. How far Taylor and Co. will take things is yet to be seen, but here's hoping it goes off the rails in spectacular fashion.