The Dying & The Dead #1
by Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim & Michael Garland
There seems to be this new trend of debuting new series with an oversized first issue. This gives creative teams more pages of story to initially hook readers in from the start. While readers get twice the comic for only a small fraction more of the price than a regular sized issue. When you think about it, that works to everyone’s benefit. This week, The Dying & The Dead debuted with a fantastic fifty-nine pages of story, which was more than enough to hook this reader.
Even though The Dying & The Dead had an outstanding debut, it’s hard to explain exactly what happened. This kind of ambiguous storytelling is becoming a trademark style of writing from Jonathan Hickman. There were two stories lines in this issue; one followed a wedding being massacred to retrieve a small box, and the other about retired Colonel Ed Canning making a deal with the devil (or some devil-like equivalent) in order to save his wife who’s dying of cancer. How these two stories connect has yet to be revealed but that’s not what hooks you. It’s the perfect pacing for Hickman to slowly peel back the layers of his story while still intriguing readers. The mysterious aura that Hickman gives off in his stories is what captures readers attention and keeps us returning for more.
As far as how The Dying & The Dead looked artistically, it looked magnificent from front-to-back. Artist Ryan Bodenheim had previously worked with Hickman on both Secret and A Red Mass For Mars. This seems like one of those creative pairings where both artists work well with each other’s ideas. The Dying & The Dead takes place in 1969, which doesn’t feel that important to the story so far. In fact, if it did state the year on the first page, readers might not have picked up on it. The story does have a timeless look to it, but sill subtly reflects the 1969 period. The colors by Michael Garland give The Dying & The Dead such a unique appearance. Garland takes a simple approach with most panels being different shades of just one color. Garland doesn’t use bright colors, yet he somehow takes muted tones and makes them seem so vibrant on the page. The team of Bodenheim and Garland really give The Dying & The Dead such a striking look that made a great read even more enjoyable.
One cannot stress enough how great it is to get these extra long debut issues. Readers get more story and the story gets more readers. The Dying & The Dead did an excellent job of taking advantage of those extra pages to deliver more narrative without revealing too much. There are both good and bad instances of vague plots in comics which can either be pleasurable or frustrating for readers. However, that urge to find out what will happen in the story paired with incredible looking art makes The Dying & The Dead a faultless debut.