This charming debut issue grabs on tight and never lets go till reaching the final page, taking the reader on a stylistic gorgeous, and thoughtful ride. Concepts and tropes that we know all too well are given new life and brought forward in compelling and engaging ways that give the exploration of life and death new dimensions.
Comic books truly are a glorious medium that allows the audience to traverse a grand number of stories that seem to leap off the pages. Every so often there are ones that come along that are right away stylistically gorgeous, insightful, funny, and just a delightful experience that would be hard to replicate in any other medium. The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is one of those series.
When a child that promises to bring about eternal life is born in Mumbai, the avatar of Death finds herself fired from her eternal position and cast into the lifeless body of an orphan formerly known as Laila Starr. What transpires is a charming tale of gods and mortals and what life and death truly mean, wrapped up in a gorgeous artistic wrapper.
Ram V has been lighting up the industry a lot lately with his writing work from the likes of Justice League Dark, Catwoman, and Swamp Thing at DC Comics and creator-owned books like Blue In Green and These Savage Shores. What this title has in common with many of those others is his ability to bring characters to full life within just moments and make them endearing and complete. No matter the situation there is a charm and a depth that is infused into everything that he writes and it is always a true delight.
A lot of this story rests upon the third-person narration that guides it alongside the character moments and dialogue on the page. Sometimes the number of words on a page or that way of telling stories can detract from what is happening, but not in this case. Ram V chooses every word carefully and the narration does not carry the storytelling, but supports all other avenues of it on display. It is like a sturdy and trustworthy companion on this journey.
Every single panel is just a sight to behold because of the fantastic work of Filipe Andrade who just goes fully in with building this world and the imagery of the gods and mortals that inhabit it. There is a chase sequence near the end of the book that caused my jaw to drop to the floor and stay that way because it was just so inventive and different than what we often see in stories.
Andrade’s colors with assists from Inês Amaro make everything pop even more as they slip from brighter and more ‘realistic’ to a more stylized look that never clashes. Further complimented by Andworld Design’s lettering which stretches itself perfectly to fit the style and energy of the overall story, completing the amazing package that is this issue.
Right from the start, the creative team is not only putting in their usual A-game, but is clearly on the same page as one another as the entire piece just seamlessly sails from start to finish, the proverbial boat never in danger of being rocked.
One thing that truly stands out about the series is that both Ram V and Andrade’s work could easily stand on its own and still tell a complete story. While there would be some points that would not be picked up upon without the dialogue or narration, there is a full through-line in Andrade’s art that would still mostly tell the story about death and resurrection and life. Both parts are strong and wonderful on their own, but putting them together creates something even grander.
There are still plenty of questions and things left unanswered for subsequent issues, but a strength of the issue is that lays out the core concepts and characters without ever going so deep with philosophical aspects of these concepts that could lose folks along the way. Definitely a strong start to this series that should not be missed.
The Many Death’s of Laila Starr #1 is now on sale from Boom Studios in print and digitally.