I’ve said this many a times before, and I say this again: Image has really been outdoing itself since last year. It has launched so many new and different series that I’ve lost count and many of the ones that I’ve read have been absolutely fantastic. I mean, for me, I either love an Image book or hate it, and the best part is that I love more than three-quarters of what I read from the publisher. And when the talent involved is as good as it has been on some of these titles, then that is even more cause for joy, for favourite writers/artists combined with a great product really mean a solid product long-term.
Death Vigil #1 is the first in a new series that Image launched last Wednesday and it features story and art both by Stjepan Sejic, one of my absolute favourite artists in the industry and a man who delivers on the most gorgeous visuals ever, no matter what character or setting or what have you he works on. I’ve loved almost all his work that I’ve seen to date and with Death Vigil he turns writer yet again after doing a collaboration with Ron Marz last year, and I have to say that I like this more than his other series. It features some great characters and some great art and some great story, even though it is almost twice the length of a regular comic!
The premise of Death Vigil is quite straightforward. Officer Samuel Lewis dies during a backalley mugging but is saved by a woman named Bernadette, who turns out to be the Grim Reaper. She gives him his life back for the promise that he is going to join the Death Vigil and keep a watch over the world to prevent a great and ancient enemy from ever taking control. That’s the first half of the issue. The second half of the issue deals with an impromptu mission that Sam undertakes while out and about in the world, and it ends up being a pretty damn big deal since the necromancer responsible overestimates his own abilities and control.
Death Vigil #1 might present a very straightforward story, but it is richly layered with a fantastic cast in Sam and Bernadette, along with a really fascinating and fairly refreshing urban fantasy twist. There are tons of stories out there no doubt where the Grim Reaper is the good girl or guy, but Stjepan’s story here feels very different because he packs in a lot of fantastic humour to this story and the characters really roll with it. There’s a fair bit of irony here as well, and that keeps things interesting. You’re never really sure how Sam and Bernie are going to react, and certainly they mislead you into thinking that while they are important characters to the story, they aren’t powerhouses. Which they are.
I loved all the twists and turns that Stjepan mixed in and honestly, Deathly Vigil #1 is pretty much one of the best #1s I’ve read to date, by far. It just feels so very different than the norm, and even from Stjepan’s other work, whether it is the IP stuff like Witchblade and Artifacts and Aphrodite IX and what not, or his creator-owned stuff like Ravine that he did with Ron Marz, another Top Cow veteran. I love it when artists crossover into writing and do something different than their usual fare. It is often… unexpected, but shouldn’t be because artists are already used to telling stories in a visual manner, and now they are just adding words to those stories, their own words, that is.
All the art in this issue is done by Stjepan himself, which as it should be I think. All the positives of his work, such as the perfect character poses, the great expressions on the character’s faces, the cinematic inking and colouring, everything is there in this issue. This issue is pretty much twice the size of a usual comic, coming at 44 pages of content, and it is just too fantastic in terms of the art. The change in hair colour for Sam confused me a bit, but I can see why he would go for it considering how prominent he has become as a member of the Death Vigil, and the personality change, such as it is. And Stjepan’s Bernie is just too fantastic. Who could have imagined that the Grim Reaper would be so… beautiful and cute and also utterly badass, all in one?
A resoundingly awesome issue, like few I’ve read to date.