The Death Head limited series from Dark Horse, has been put together into a one volume collection. Anyone who missed the initial run of the original horror comic, and who are really into plague doctor masks, can pick it up now. But, is it good?
Death Head (Dark Horse Comics)
Death Head starts with Niles and Justine (married, getting away from it all) on a camping trip in a forest, where they find an abandoned town and a creepy mask and almost get incinerated. They bring the mask home (wrong move) and along with their two kids, have to deal with the aftermath. There are creepy plague mask-wearing doctors and hallucinations and lots of intriguing tidbits that provide a good hook to keep turning the page. The first time the kids are introduced in their own storylines, you don’t even know they are related to Niles and Justine. I imagine these seemingly unrelated threads come together much better in the collection than it did when each individual issue was released, and seem less disjointed.
Everything looks great. The art by Joanna Estep is fantastic as well as the coloring by Kelly Fitzpatrick. The plague doctors look suitably creepy and unique. The environments do a good job of conveying tone, especially with the subtle color changes of the background to highlight the feel of what is happening in each panel. The various covers from each issue, used in the book, really stand out and have a great aesthetic.
Overall the story loses steam in the last third of the book. Certain plot points, like the sheriff and the townspeople near a lighthouse that Niles has been drawn to, are introduced and resolved very quickly. I didn’t exactly buy the motivation of the sheriff and his about face from murder to self-sacrifice. However, I do understand you’ve got a limited amount of real estate to work with and I can’t fault writers Zack and Nick Keller too much for not wanting to spend much time on that particular plot line. Which is really strange, since the biggest complaint I have of the book is the amount of exposition included throughout. Less would have certainly been more in this instance, as it took me out of the story to have each character explain exactly what and why they were doing everything, all the time. Much of the dialogue could have been chopped in half or eliminated completely, especially during action scenes. It made the humor, that was being interjected throughout, seem out of place. If you’re trying to escape being melted in crematorium, a joke about your husband’s diet doesn’t come across well.
Is It Good?
I have a feeling I would have enjoyed this much more as a movie, with less dialogue and a satisfying final act. The premise is great and the plot moves fine, but the ending really fell flat and didn’t evoke any chills or desire to see what happens next. Not a bad read, but falls into the same traps good horror has to avoid. The more you know about what’s going on, the less intriguing it is and it loses its magic.
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