With new comics on hold for the foreseeable future, my colleague Tony Thornley and I decided to dive deep into our longboxes and collections to bring you a new Comicon feature we’re calling New To You Comics. Tony and I have very different tastes in comics. He tends to drift toward the Superhero and Sci-Fi genres and I pretty much stick to Horror, Noir, and Thrillers. Sometimes our paths cross, but we, like most readers, tend to stay in our lanes.
The challenge here is for me to introduce Tony to some titles he probably missed on first pass and for Tony to hit me with some of the stuff he really likes that I haven’t read. All of the titles we will discuss will be brand new to one of us and all are available on digital platforms. You should be able to access them even if your local shop is temporarily closed or out of stock.
So far, we’ve hit up Dark Horse Comics’ Negative Space and Astonishing X-Men: Gifted from Marvel. This time around, I’m headed way back to 2006 with Cullen Bunn’s very first book, The Damned.
Here’s what Oni Press has to say about The Damned Volume 1- Three Days Dead:
During prohibition, gangsters grew rich on our vices, and rivalries between criminal organizations resulted in open war. But unknown to the masses, a more sinister power controlled the crime cartels, using greed, gluttony, lust and other sins to fuel a more lucrative trade: mortal souls. Enter Eddie, a mortal who lost his soul long ago. Caught in the middle of competing demonic families, any other human would’ve gotten the ax long ago. But Eddie’s got a special talent that keeps him on his feet. One man’s curse is another man’s gift.
Brendan Allen: This time around, we’re diving into an Occult Noir story by one of my all-time favorite writers and honestly one of the most solid, genuinely good dudes I’ve ever met, Cullen Bunn. The Damned, Volume 1 TPB: Three Days Dead is the first arc of the very first book Bunn ever got published. The Damned goes down a path that’s getting more and more familiar, but this is the book that really hooked me into this Occult Noir subgenre. It’s pretty fair to say if you didn’t love this book, we can’t stay friends. So, tell me. What did you love about The Damned?
Tony Thornley: This was a very fun read. I am a huge fan of the urban fantasy genre, so this story felt like home. It has all the hallmarks of urban fantasy- a morally grey hero with supernatural connections, hidden monsters, organized crime- but also leaning heavily into horror. I really enjoy stories that just dive into their worlds fully formed and do the world building as they go along, rather than through exposition and there’s already so many layers here. Cullen knocks it out of the park.
Brendan: I like that point. From that very first scene, you really have no idea what the hell is going on, but it instantly pulls you in and makes you want to learn everything about this world, all in good time, though. Everything makes sense later on, but in that moment, it’s scary and confusing and exhilarating. Getting the exposition about Eddie’s past and his curse in advance would have completely ruined that first big pop.
Tony: Oh and that curse! It’s a great narrative device. Eddie being essentially immortal could be played as a superpower, but it’s such a heavy burden on the character. And it’s not without consequences. It’s a sharp tool in Bunn’s arsenal!
Brendan: I really like Brian Hurtt’s deceptively simple, thick linework in The Damned. If I recall correctly, this first arc was originally presented in black and white, but this collection has been colored by Bill Crabtree, who has stepped way up and added a whole new dimension to the story without losing the dark, noir themes.
Tony: You can see a lot of Hurtt’s influences in the art and that’s a good thing. There’s a bit of Mignola, a little Risso, mixed with some cartoony artists like Dodson or Wieringo. He does just the right amount of detail to make the world feel just removed from our own. His designs for the demon families are very cool too. Crabtree does just great work too, using a washed out palette… It makes it come to life. One of my favorite things that we haven’t mentioned yet is Crank!’s lettering. They really make things interesting and integrate it into the art in a way that it’s a part of the whole experience. Really fun work.
Brendan: I like this book a lot. It’s maybe the second Cullen Bunn joint I got ahold of, after Regression. I classify it as Occult Noir, but you called it Urban Fantasy. It’s awesome that The Damned crosses genre so fluidly, and appeals to such a wide audience.
It’s your pick now. What do you have lined up for me next?
Tony: Oh, you’re in for a fun one. We’re doing another Marvel book before we dive into some other publishers and this one is right in your wheelhouse. About three years ago, one of Marvel’s most iconic characters got a relaunch that transformed the concept forever. We’re going to check out the first volume of what’s probably the best series Marvel is currently publishing- Immortal Hulk! I might be about to get you hooked…
The Damned, Volume 1: Three Days Dead, Oni Press, 15 March 2017 (Series originally published beginning October 2006). Written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Brian Hurtt, color by Bill Crabtree, letters by Crank!
We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible, and safe.
If your local comic store is temporarily closed, not offering safe curbside pick up or mail order, or is out of stock on this title, you can find a digital copy of The Damned, Volume 1: Three Days Dead for $8.50 at Comixology right here. (It’s also included in Comixology Unlimited, so if you subscribe to that service, you should already have access to it.) Amazon has the physical trade paperback for $9 here, and Biblio has it for $10 plus $3 shipping here.
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