We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is a comic about floating gods and rebel spaceships, but it’s also a tale of broken family ties, revenge, and grief. Nowhere is that duality more clear than in this fifth issue, a brilliant finale to the first arc from writer Al Ewing (Immortal Hulk, S.W.O.R.D.) and artist Simone Di Meo (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers).
The series has been building up to a confrontation between Captain Georges Malik, the gritty captain of the Vihaan II, and Paula Richter, the space cop tasked with managing (and sometimes pursuing) ships like Malik’s as they scavenge the bodies of dead gods for resources. These two people are not friends. As we learned in the last issue, Richter was engaged to Malik’s brother Thierry and blames Malik for his death.
Ewing, whose work at Marvel has made him one of the comics industry’s rising stars, begins each issue of We Only Find Them When They’re Dead with a flashback. These prologues usually flesh out aspects of Malik’s mysterious background and this issue’s flashback is the longest yet. We get insight into Thierry’s relationship with Richter and the circumstances of his death.
Di Meo makes the most of these quiet scenes with his signature jagged panel breaks and close-up shots that are unlike anything else in comics. What I like most about Di Meo, who colors his own work with assistance from Mariasara Miotti, is how playful and bright his work is on this book, despite it being set largely in space among hardened scavengers. I can understand why DC scooped him up for something like Future State: Harley Quinn; Harley is a character in constant motion who fits Di Meo’s style well. Those floating space gods don’t exactly move much, but they sure do emit light and the way Di Meo and Miotti depict them in a double-page splash near the end of this issue is nothing short of majestic.
For all the cosmic grandeur of this book, Ewing wisely focuses on the characters on a smaller scale: at work and in relation to each other. I love the way Ewing writes—for lack of a better word–office scenes. Whether he’s showing the S.W.O.R.D. station or the Shadow Base in Immortal Hulk, Ewing always knows how to conjure that feeling of how people with a vaguely similar purpose can exist in a common space. That mission gets especially twisted here when family ties are involved. The crew of the Vihaan aren’t just co-workers, but actual family members. Richter is Thierry’s fiancé while still serving in a professional role roughly analogous to his workplace supervisor or watchdog.
Malik’s new crew members share many of the same bonds that caused problems for the Vihaan. Siblings Jason and Ella are most loyal to each other, but Jason is also romantically involved with Malik. Alice is Malik’s closest friend, but she was killed by Richter in the last issue. Malik’s status is uncertain, especially after this issue’s exciting “did-I-really-just-see-that” epilogue.
There are soap opera dynamics at play here, but also the same petty rivalries and uncertainties of any coworkers navigating a familiar, but tense space. The Vihaan II crew is tied together now, but will they face the same fate as their predecessors? That’s the question I’m looking forward to seeing play out over what looks to be an ultimately tragic story.
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