Apr 3, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 38: The Dying & the Dead #1, January 2015

http://www.comics.org/issue/1310376/

One of the aborted series I began on this blog a few years back was one about building a collection. It's been about 5 years since I wrote that introduction, and just now am I starting to think of things I could talk about. One of the early pieces I drafted around the same time as the introduction was one on the wonders of dollar bins (we useta call 'em "quarter bins," back in the day). I'm a firm believer in pouring through these boxes of under-appreciated comics. Sometimes one finds utter crap, kitsch that is worth having just for the sake of having it. Other times, one discovers a hidden gem, perhaps a little beaten up, but no worse for the wear.

Yesterday, at one of my local shops, I found Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim's The Dying & the Dead #1. In a dollar bin. This comic is literally a couple of months old, so what on Earth was it doing there? The answer comes in a couple of light scuff marks on the cover, and a small tear in the back cover. And it is thus that I came to procure the first issue of a new Hickman comic, which I would have bought anyway because, well, Hickman, for the low, low price of one dollar. Never knock the dollar bin.

As for the comic, it's really quite great. Bodenheim supplies a couple of double-page spreads that are really breathtaking, especially the one of The City. I spent more than a few minutes staring at it, trying to pull out and discover secrets hidden in the artwork. I'm not overly familiar with Bodenheim's work. He drew Secret with Hickman, which I've yet to get through, and the only other appearances he makes in my database is in a Fear Itself crossover title called Fearsome Four (which features both Howard the Duck and Man-Thing, so was always going to be a part of my collection!). Something like this double-page piece puts me in mind of the sprawling cityscapes of Geof Darrow or Darick Robertson, but there's a slightly more ethereal quality to Bodenheim's work, at least here. I'm excited to see how this carries over into the rest of the series.

What is it about Hickman and underground cities, by the way? Not that I don't think there's a wealth of stories to be mined from that particular trope, but something about them seems to be important in whatever he's trying to work out in his fictions (not meant as a psychological assessment, but as a metaphorical preference that we can sometimes identify in particular writers). Esoteric knowledge seems always to be buried in Hickman's works, be it the City of the Dead in New Avengers, the eternal city of the S.H.I.E.L.D. (a series that could really have been ridiculously amazing had it continued), or The City of The Dying & the Dead. How this will play out, considering the mythic links we've seen thus far in the comic (Styx, Yggdrasil, that spear that the Colonel holds on the cover) will be fascinating I'm sure.

Huh, not much review there, really. With more recent comics I'm loathe to spoil anything, because they're still out there on the rack, a lot more widely available than, say, the Shade comics I was talking about the other week. I've praised Hickman almost as much as Morrison on this blog, and this comic is no exception. He's really a truly gifted comics writer, and has allied himself with some fantastic artists who are able to realize and build upon the visions he's got. I'm interested as to whether his facility with the medium stems from his being both artist and writer occasionally. And, actually, why he seems to have chosen writing as his preferred way of expression in the medium. I'll add him to the list of people I'd love to sit down a chat with some day.

See you tomorrow. Gonna dive back into the Storage collection, I think, and see what else I can discover.

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