It has been a good long while since we’ve had a Death Vigil release. Stjepan Sejic ended the sixth issue on a very grim note, with events heading completely downhill for the Vigil, especially Bernie, and it was a really, really bleak moment for the entire crew, especially once there was a betrayal from within. It was a grim story, but at the same time, a lot of Stjepan’s comic timing really made its presence felt as well, and that kept me chugging along. And it kept me foaming at the mouth for the next release, which was unfortunately delayed until recently.
Some personal problems for Stjepan meant that we didn’t get Death Vigil #7 until last week, and that too through his own blog rather than through the regular distribution. I won’t go into the specifics as they are kind of irrelevant to matters at hand, but suffice to say that the new issue is well worth the long wait since mid-January. Stjepan launches straight into the story and picks up the beats from where he left off, and the new issue proves to be one hell of a ride, keeping up a fine tradition that began in Death Vigil #1 last year.
The general quality of Death Vigil #7 isn’t quite what I’ve become used to from Stjepan. Which is understandable given some of the recent personal issues he has had related to his health and all, not to mention that he ended up fast-tracking the issue through a general release on his DeviantArt pages rather than going through regular Top Cow/Image distribution so that he could get it into fans’ hands that much earlier. It shows up in some occasional panels with the artwork, and even in the letters in a couple places or so where there are some spelling mistakes and such, or a sentence is a mish-mash.
However, looking past these simple editing overlooks, Death Vigil #7 still holds up very well. We are right back with Clara and the others when the issue begins, with Maria and Bernie having a long discussion of why they are at odds with each other and what the former intends to do with the latter’s Scythe of power. There are two separate arcs here, one that deals with Maria’s plans and how they fit into those of the necromancers she has allied with, and the other deals with the Vigil as it tries to track down Bernie and we get to meet back up with a character who was… missing for a while.
What Stjepan does here is pretty commendable. He reconnects you with certain characters, gives some of them the beginnings of redemption arcs, and he also moves the story forward in a really big way, hinting at yet more epic confrontations between the good guys and the bad guys. He has been ramping up the action with each issue from the start, and this one’s no different with everything that he does here. Learning more about the necromancers’ plans? Learning about why Sam’s veilrippers manifested as the objects they did? Learning more about Clara’s incredible powers and the place she has in the grand scheme of things? Bernie as a… mortal?
You could easily get overwhelmed with all of it, but Stjepan navigates through everything with ease and he presents all the story elements in digestible chunks, which is just perfect. There is a lot of emotional wrangling going on here as well, on both sides of the divide, and that made for some really interesting reading because Stjepan has only made you connect with the bad guys on a much deeper level, especially where Maria is concerned. Which is what you want out of a good villain anyway and Maria hits all the checkmarks there.
The art is top-notch here as always, and one of the coolest things is how Stjepan reflects story progression through the art. For example, we’ve seen that anyone who becomes a member of the Vigil has their hair turn white, no matter what colour they were before. Well, with Maria now being in control of Bernie’s signature Scythe, her hair has started to turn white as well, whereas Bernie’s hair are beginning to turn to their natural colour. You get to see that “live” as the story goes on and that’s pretty sweet. No big clashes or splash pages here, what with Stjepan focusing on the characters and their interactions much more, but that was for the better anyway since Stjepan really seems to have gone to town with it. Loved all of Clara’s scenes here!
This would be the first issue of the series where I feel that we are finally moving to a huge conclusion, and I certainly can’t wait to see what the next issue brings!