Day of the Dead is a holiday like no other, as it ties in with a very dark place and it’s taken very seriously by those who aren’t just using it as an excuse to slurp margaritas. But where are the comics at for such a profound holiday? Well, if you’re a fan of Riley Rossmo you’ll know he was the artist behind a three part series known as Dia De Los Muertos which was collected and released this past Wednesday.
I had the opportunity to check this book out, not only to get in the mood for this spiritual holiday, but also to prepare myself for the ghostly apparitions I may encounter over the weekend. The subject is solid, but how about the art and writing? Is it good?
Dia De Los Muertos (Image Comics)
Those of you unfamiliar with Riley Rossmo should know he really blew the minds of readers when it comes to horror comics with his work on Green Wake. That series was dark, twisted and a hell of a lot of fun for those who like their metaphysical mixed with David Lynch levels of messed up. So color me excited when Rossmo was tagged to draw multiple short stories with the Day of the Dead theme written by a slew of different writers.
This 115 page collection contains nine stories with an additional 12 pages of extras. Again, Rossmo draws every single one of these stories, so you know you’re in good hands visually, and in fact you might be surprised. You see, he uses different styles throughout this book which shows he not only has incredible talent, but a great sense of tone. These stories range from twisted to melodic to romantic, so obviously the visual has to change to capture the mood of the stories. Some stories are minimal on color, others blasting with it, some very similar to his style on Green Wake, with others mimicking something Jack Kirby would do with the New Gods. Let’s break down each story down in the order they appear, shall we?
Creepy…and in Spanish!
Dead, But Dreaming
This story is written by Alex Link and is about a girl who’s trying to find out what happened to her father after he disappeared when she was born. It’s a bit slow, but captures the girl’s lost nature very well. When it eventually tumbles into Hell itself readers might be thrown for a loop, but it’s a cool way to open the book. We see that the real world can be peeled away very quickly, which is precisely what a book like this intends to do for our imaginations.
This story follows a Paranormal Intuitive Life Coach, who is trying to help a family with some ghosts. Of all the stories this one explains the Day of the Dead the best, and also gets all metaphysical in cool ways. This coach reveals the nature of the undead and how they stay with us and protect us. It’s a cool concept that’d work great as an ongoing series and here’s to hoping writer Christopher E. Long gets that chance.
Te Vas Angel Mio
This story, written by Dirk Manning, has the closest ties to the Spanish culture, as a mariachi band plays during the Day of the Dead. The lead singer sees a woman that reminds him of his lost love and it hits the heart strings just right. It’s sweet, but also shows how the Day of the Dead can be a moment for reflection and growth.
This was my favorite story as far as the twist factor goes, mostly because it has a killer (pun intended) twist ending. I won’t ruin it here, but Joshua Williamson writes a mean story about a town where blonde women visit and end up dead. A boyfriend of one of the girls arrives to find out what happened to her and I guarantee you’ll be surprised by what he finds and what we find out.
The Skinny One
This story is drawn like a kids book, about a kid who’s a ghost that attempts to find the man that killed him. It’s a bit of a throwaway story, and seems to be here only because Rossmo wanted to draw in a kids book style. It looks great but the message is very meh. Writer Ed Brisson does an okay job plotting, but I just wasn’t feeling the dialogue.
This story seems loosely based on the Day of the Dead and more about two brothers who do bad things. Then again, they seem to be haunted by their abuela, so maybe that’s the connection. It steers itself quickly into dark places, and while the Hell that reveals itself is interesting, I wasn’t sure what to make of the story as a whole. This one was written by Jeff Mariotte.
Return of the Dead
By far the the best story in the bunch and on top of that there’s no dialogue to speak of. The story is pretty disturbing, as it deals with a child being kidnapped and soon to be murdered. Rossmo captures the horror of the moment, but also the ghostly apparitions quite well. Alexander Grecian is credited for the script and he does a great job with pacing and concept.
Here we have a reteaming of Rossmo and writer Kurtis J. Wiebe from their Green Wake days. This story is pretty touching, has a bit of a twist that’ll catch you off guard, but also has a meaning that’s powerful. After reading this, one wonders if Wiebe lost someone himself as the story doesn’t ring false at all.
Day of the Dead 3000
Joe Keatinge writes this one and I just don’t get it. It has a Jack Kirby vibe with gods fighting and a lot of madness. I suppose in some sense it’s a lot of fun, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the rest. I suppose Rossmo and Keatinge just wanted to go full tilt to end the series, but I would have rather had a more touching somber story than something so boisterous and silly.
- Every story looks great, and in some cases, looks like it was a whole other artist behind it!
- A couple meh stories.
Is It Good?
Hell yeah, great ride through the Day of the Dead.
As anthologies go this book excels in a lot of ways. There’s an eclectic mix of stories; some touching, some disturbing, but all of them adequately tied into the Day of the Dead. Overall I can’t not recommend this book and I hope Rossmo does more anthologies like it. The man has the skill enough to do any holiday in my opinion.