Killer Act, Ugly Past, Too Many Enemies To Count- Dying is Easy #1

by Brendan M. Allen

Comedy is Hard… but Dying is Easy!
The debut of an all-new creation by Joe Hill (Locke & Key) and Martin Simmonds (Punks Not Dead)! Meet Syd “Shit-Talk” Homes, a disgraced ex-cop turned bitter stand-up comic turned… possible felon?!
In part 1 of Dying is Easy, Carl Dixon is on the verge of comedy superstardom and he got there the dirty way: by stealing jokes. He’s got a killer act, an ugly past, and more enemies than punch-lines. So when someone asks Syd Homes how much it would cost to have Dixon killed, Syd isn’t surprised in the slightest. He’s already got a figure in mind…

Every comic, from the newest kids on the block to the dudes that should have retired decades ago, working the dumpiest little clubs, has one decent joke. Might just be the one, but that joke is the thing they rely on to keep getting booked, the thing that will warm up a cold crowd, the high note they can use to get off stage before salt shakers and pint glasses start getting thrown. 
In Dying Is Easy #1, Syd “Shit Talk” Holmes finds out another comic, Carl Dixon, is ripping off his best material, and riding it all the way to features on The Tonight Show and cameos on FRIENDS. It’s not just Syd’s material getting poached, either. The whole group of regulars at the shithole club Carl came up through has beef with Carl’s plagiarism. Enough beef to half-jokingly offer Syd a hundo and change to tune Mr. Dixon up in the alley behind the club. 
Done and done. Everything’s cool until Carl’s corpse turns up the next morning in the same alley. That’s probably gonna raise some hell for the last dude to see him alive, who happens to also be the dude who just accepted a pathetic bounty to beat the snot out of him in an alley, who also happens to have both motive and opportunity.

The script has a lot of similarities to a CSI episode from back in April 2003 called Last Laugh. So many similarities that it made me wonder if this is a subgenre I just hadn’t really heard of. A moderately successful comic returns to his roots at the dumpy club he started out in for an exorbitant fee, insults the locals, and gets iced by another comic. Is this a thing?
Beyond the setup, though, there aren’t many similarities. Joe Hill gives us some fantastic characters. Syd’s material is darkly brilliant. Sardonic and jaded, his deadpan delivery of the morbid realities of his former life in homicide would actually probably get him over in some clubs. I laughed, anyway. That may say more about my sense of humor than the strength of the bit. 
The conversations backstage and in the back alley reek of desperation, but are also grounded and relatable. Everyone’s struggled, and we all know what it’s like to see the one asshole at work keep getting promoted on the strength of other people’s ideas and labor. How much would you pay to see that person get popped a few good times?

Art by Martin Simmonds and Dee Cunniffe lines up really well with the acerbic tone of this first chapter. Most of this book takes place within the squalid club, with just a few scenes taking place in a filthy alley. Simmonds sticks to a standard nine panel layout when Syd is delivering his patter, which helps sell the comedian’s impassive delivery. When conversation goes off stage, layout opens up and flows much more naturally. 
Dying Is Easy is off to an interesting start. The characters and setting feel really familiar, and the mystery is already well established. Not many horror elements in this first chapter, but the noir and comedy come through. Well worth a look, even if that macabre turn doesn’t pop until next month. 

Dying is Easy #1 (of 5), IDW Publishing, 11 December 2019. Created by Joe Hill (script) and Martin Simmonds (art), with color assists by Dee Cunniffe, letters by Shawn Lee, edited by Chris Ryall

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