‘The Many Deaths of Laila Starr’ continues to weave its gorgeous, emotional, and entirely relatable story of life and death that explores the overall human condition and the world around us through a fantastical but all too human lens. Character depth and meaning can be found in each conversation-filled issue, showcasing just how far and wide the realm of comic books and storytelling can and should be.
Death is one of the constant certainties of human existence. Through the entirety of our time in this world, humans of every society and belief system have at some point wished they could confront some perceived entity of death, whatever form it took. To ask it one question, “Why?”
Darius Shah gets that chance in The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #4.
As Ram V, Filipe Andrade, Inês Amaro, and Deron Bennet’s series reaches its penultimate issue, pieces to the overarching puzzle are beginning to become clearer. The reason for Laila’s seemingly random “time jumps” after deaths and how they tie to Darius’ life is fully laid out. While some likely suspected the reasons, it’s still powerful to see it revealed. Because the revelation comes during that aforementioned discussion with death.
Ram V is an extraordinary writer when it comes to these character moments and this entire series has largely been character moments through the medium of conversation. This isn’t a comic book about big action beats. It’s a series about life and death and the human condition and the depths it goes in these directions is just astounding.
The last issue was told through the narration of a cigarette, given life through the touch of Laila Starr, and this issue continues the trend of looking at life through the ‘eyes’ of the inanimate objects around us that we take for granted. The life story of the lone remaining Chinese Temple in Mumbai and the old man Wei who taking care of the temple is engaging and sad in many ways.
It provides a counter in many ways to Darius’ story, as he struggles with the loss and is destined to somehow stop death from happening at all. Meanwhile, the temple seems to ‘accept’ the news from Laila that the reason old Wei has stopped coming is that he has passed away. Before the temple, itself ‘joins’ him when it meets its own fate within the issue.
It’s honestly hard to fully put down words to review this and give it the context it deserves because this is a series that truly needs to be experienced and not just talked or read about.
Alongside the in-depth character and humanity moments, there are the stunning visuals that Andrade and Amaro provide every single issue. The focus this time remains through more of a fixed angle upon Laila and the world around her rather than through the ‘eyes’ of the cigarette from the last issue. Not a touch has been lost though in making this such a distinct and delightful series to gaze upon.
As the tone of the issue shifts from the conversation between Laila and the temple as well as the temple’s flashback storytelling, and the long-time coming confrontation of Laila and Darrius the colors follow. They are brighter and bolder and run the gamut for the first part of the issue but begin to get darker and almost muted in a few places as we enter Darius’ home and learn what tragedy he’s currently going through.
There are so many powerful and intense moments during the conversation that are sold even more by the overarching feelings radiating off the panels. It’s almost terrifying when there is a moment when Darius unleashes his anger on a glass, blood pouring from his hand to the newspapers and table below. Accentuated by the big loud SFX from Bennett. This is when the colors become even more muted and dark and scary, as Darius becomes more and more understandably unhinged.
Bennett’s work last issue had the caption boxes of the cigarette taking on a very smoky and fluid look to fit the speaker. This time the boxes of the temple are a lot blockier in status, like a building, and many of the caption boxes have a more ‘formal’ nature to them as they return to the outside third-party narrator type of style.
Truly this is a series that you can’t help but come away from really thinking about life and the world around us, as you delve into the issues over and over again to really catch everything. A series like this fully showcases not just what comic books can do as a medium, but what one can truly do with storytelling period.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #4 is now on sale in print and digitally from BOOM! Studios.