With the comics industry beginning to return from the pandemic, Brendan Allen and I are taking the opportunity to introduce each other to comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Brendan loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This week we take a look at a recent comics hit!
Last year, DCeased was announced by DC Comics with a massive eye roll and sigh. Zombies and superheroes had already been done, years before, by Marvel, and the event was written off by many readers. However, when the miniseries by Tom Taylor, Trevor Hairsine, James Harren, Stefano Guadiano, Rain Beredo, and Saida Temofonte hit, it was an instant smash.
When the Justice League finally defeats Darkseid, the dark god strikes his final revenge- uploading the Anti-Life Equation as a Trojan horse virus into Cyborg! However, this virus has a more horrifying effect than even Darkseid can predict, thrusting the League into one of the most harrowing wars they’ve ever fought. It’s an event that not everyone will walk away from alive!
Tony Thornley: Of all these comics we’ve covered so far, this is probably the fastest you’ve ever gone through a story, and the most eager you ever were to talk about it. So I assume you liked it?
Brendan Allen: I did. I’ve always been more comfortable in the DC Universe than Marvel. While I tend to stick mostly to the indies and smaller publishers these days, I grew up on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Justice League… I can find my way around in a book like this with way fewer trips to Google than any Marvel event.
So, yeah. Take a Universe I’m familiar with and hit it with a horror event? Hell yes. Let’s kick this pig! I burned through this book in a single sitting. We had just wrapped up the last segment on Kong/PotA, and I cracked this sucker open to get my first impressions. Before I knew it, I was already in the covers gallery.
TT: I get it. I was so eager to pick up every issue after the first. Stories like this are usually not my style. And I don’t mean capes in horror stories. If it were superhero pastiches- like Peter Cline’s Ex-Heroes novels- I can stomach it. I mean specifically familiar characters being thrust into this horror setting and going through the wringer. I HATED Marvel Zombies and all its spin-offs. Yet here with DCeased I picked it up on a whim because I liked Taylor’s past work (I love his Wolverine, X-Men and Spider-Man).
I found it worked on three different levels. It’s a great meta-deconstruction of the superhero event. It’s a truly gut-wrenching horror story. But it’s also a really damn good DC Universe story, especially a Superman story. So yeah… I liked it too.
BA: I really liked the twist on this one. We’ve seen so many zombie stories in the last several years, and loads of stories that try to incorporate tech and social media into horror. This is the first story I’ve read that really seemed to get it. The “virus” isn’t exactly a living pathogen, and isn’t quite a computer virus. It’s a perfect storm, and it’s highly effective as a truly terrifying, unknown threat.
TT: Yeah, I dig that too. It’s kind of like Stephen King’s Cell. I also really like that it plays with how typical crossover events are structured on the meta-textual level. It feels very much like a standard event, even when Black Canary has to kill Hal Jordan in self defense, even when Superman needs to seal off the Daily Planet to keep the infected in… up until Batman is infected and Alfred has to defend himself. Until Taylor crosses that line, you think that things can still go back to how they were. Then all the sudden in that scene you realize, no, they can’t.
BA: I really like that this story takes place outside of canon, so the creators aren’t afraid to brutally off some fan favorites. That Batman scene is savage. Every casualty is deliberate, though. Nothing gratuitous. Every bit of that gore moves the plot.
TT: Definitely, and the art is such a big part of that. I really like Hairsine’s art here for a couple reasons. First, Hairsine is a big name, but he’s not also such a big name that you see him every month. That makes this kind of special. He’s also got a style that’s similar enough to the DC house style that it feels familiar, but he’s got a great sense of the grotesque that makes the horror land so well.
BA: The art is really familiar, but has a darker, more sober tone. Everything looks like it fits into some of the darker DC canon, but it also has an edge. Like, everyone seems older? That isn’t quite right. It isn’t Kingdom Come, where they’ve all put on 20 years. More like weather-beaten. This is the DC Universe, but a DC Universe that’s seen some shit. This is the PTSDCU.
TT: So I think I know what you’re going to say but- verdict?
BA: You know, I’ve gotta say, this is probably the best book you’ve set in front of me. I really got into it, and quickly. This is going into my review queue.
TT: I knew you’d like it! So how are you going to scare me this week?
BA: You’re going to hate me for this next one. A devout Muslim, in an interracial, interfaith engagement, living in a tiny apartment with her casually racist future mother-in-law. Also, the building they live in is full of overtly racist neighbors. Oh, and, it’s probably haunted. We’re taking on Image Comics’ Infidel, by Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell.
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 the collected edition on Comixology for $19.99, and the first chapter is currently free! If you prefer a physical edition, you can find the hardcover on TFAW for $24.