Death as a House: A Review of The Dead

I picked up a copy of The Dead on Kickstarter awhile ago because I went to school with the artist, Jen Hickman (who is a lovely human, in case you were wondering). Penned by James Maddox, the comic tells a strange tale about the afterlife. The world after death is a house where each occupant gets his own room that can be shaped however he wants. Of course in a world where people can create what they want, forms of wealth other than money or material things develop.

When the book starts the most popular form of currency are bottles. People create different bottles full of different beverages in their rooms, and Devi, whose room is a kind of bar, hires out runners to collect these bottles for her, trading whatever information she has about the house for the bottles. But being a bottle runner isn’t easy. Some of the rooms can be dangerous, and there are dangerous creatures that roam throughout the house. There are the monstrous Wretched, the ghostly Frail that can drive people insane, and the Wave, a collection of ghosts that people join if they die again in the afterlife.

The story mostly follows Sam, a newcomer to death who begins his afterlife as a bottle runner. He then gets caught up as a hunter, trying to capture Wretched and other creatures for Devi’s new zoo, as well as hunting the illusive scientist Arthur.

I think the concept for this story is really interesting. The plot is good too, and it unfolds around some interesting and likable characters. However, I’m also hoping that this is a first volume (and it does feel like it is), as there are several things that are either never touched on or remain unanswered. For example, none of the characters talk about their lives when they were living, which I found odd. The story also ends on something of a cliffhanger. Basically I’m excited to see how things develop.

Art wise, I really like Hickman’s style, and I think comics as a medium suit this story. The weirdness of the setting lends itself to being illustrated, since that can more efficiently and effectively convey what is going on in a way that writing it out really couldn’t.

If you’re looking for a new and interesting comic to check out, I definitely recommend that you check out The Dead. It’s a fun read and definitely different from most of the things that are out there.

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