by Stjepan Sejic
A new gathering of warriors are being recruited in the battle against the Primordial Enemy. The leader of this courageous new band of warriors is named Bernadette the Reaper. The name might sound a bit morbid but that’s because before she can recruit you, you have to be dead. Stjepan Sejic’s new series Death Vigil is a unique series of post-life heroes protecting the lives of the living. What might appear to be a by the numbers gothic fantasy is quite creative, funny, touching, and colorfully entertaining to fantasy genre fans.
For this creator owned project, Sejic’s dialogue has a natural flow and is never excessive, it has just the right amount of narrative and exposition. The humor in the dialogue works because Sejic’s characters have a sense of sincerity in their voice complimented by the art that mirrors the dialogue. The premise of gathering heroes by an understanding and sage as leader is given a slightly new twist. In this story, a compassionate yet humorous reaper named Bernadette is recruiting soldiers to protect the lives of the living against shady necromancers and their mysterious leader. Sejic has created an imaginative process that Bernadette uses to create her death vigils. The shock of the recently converted is suspenseful with a touch of humor providing the right amount of levity. The inclusion of humor and feeling is vital for making this a good introduction to this series because the storytelling relies heavily on Bernadette and her vigil Samuel’s dialogue. Sejic doesn’t reveal the plot and premise right away but builds both in small reveals throughout this debut. This structure works well but requires readers to trust that the next issue will continue this narrative style and that readers have the patience for the reveals during the middle and final acts of the issue.
Sejic’s art style is reminiscent of the feature Iron Giant. The illustrations have the details and expression equivalent to high quality animation. Much care is given to the visual representation to both emotion and action in each panel on the page. Characters are given distinct features and attributes that provides immediate recognition and a touch of nonverbal personality. Some fantasy books rely on exaggerated anatomy to entice the readers. Sejic, thankfully, does not. Character’s anatomy are portrayed as muscular and lean without unnecessary augmentations to certain features or revealing wardrobes. The colors are uneven, however, which can be distracting during some of the more mystical sequences. There is an overt use of bright white which overpowers the rest of the panel’s details at times. During other sequences, however, the muted red color of the main threat of the issue provides a sense of urgency and menace.
Death Vigil is a fun fantasy debut that is equal parts gothic, humor and heart. Sejic’s script doesn’t fall into the self-important or dark for the sake of darkness, which makes it an entertaining read appealing to a broad audience. Sejic’s combination of high quality visual storytelling and good characterization gives an entertaining new spin to the premise of good versus evil.