‘Death Bed’ Brings Snarky Pulp To This Week’s Best Comics

Senior Contributor
02.21.18 2 Comments

DC Comics

Every writer dreams of having the perfect story drop in their lap. No matter how successful, no matter what their expertise, writers love good stories, especially when they’re someone else’s. Joshua Williamson and Riley Rossmo, in their new booth Death Bed (launching today from DC Comics), make their protagonist a dissatisfied writer who gets handed the perfect story. Except, you know, be careful what you wish for.

Williamson’s script focuses on Val, a frustrated writer who’s unusually talented at ghostwriting autobiographies, as she visits the home of one Mr. Luna, who lives in the whirling eye of a storm of pulp horror and adventure cliches. She expects to be writing a bio on the man’s deathbed, but, well, best-laid plans. But this is really Rossmo’s show. Working with colorist Ivan Plascencia, Rossmo, who’s usually asked to draw dense, dark horror books, is given a bit more license here and he runs with it, crashing two-page splashes with floods of panels showing debauchery, packing the page with cinematic splatter, and indulging in just a splash of crude comedy.

Comics have their roots in the pulps, and in their own way, Williamson and Rossmo are interrogating the crappy side of those roots: The bloodthirst, the colonialism, the self-centeredness. But they also acknowledge the basic truth that murdering demonic ninjas with a machete is inherently awesome. It’s a hell of a ride, and sometimes that’s enough.

Dynamite

James Bond: The Body #2, Dynamite

In spy fiction, there’s a divide between “martini” and “stale beer,” where the former is all gadgets and flash and the latter is the real, gritty, sometimes nasty day-to-day of protecting the country and citizenry. Ales Kot and Antonio Fuso split the difference, here, by having the man you’ve probably guessed inspired “martini” spy fiction engaged in some truly nasty stale beer antics. It feels, very much, like the original Fleming novels, right down to the sharp twist at the end.

Black Panther Annual #1, Marvel

A well-timed sampler of sorts, this book brings in Black Panther’s past writers Christopher Priest and Reginald Hudlin to riff on T’Challa’s past, present, and possible futures. It’s really more for long-time fans of the comics than anybody else, in some respects, as they revisit where plotlines of the past would have gone before they got canceled, or update us on where the movie’s characters are in the Marvel universe. But it’s accessible enough for new readers that it serves as a good entry point.

Sex Criminals #22, Image Comics

Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky pick up where they left off with Jon and Suzy, broken up, trapped in crappy emotional relationships, and trying to deal with some weird vast conspiracy of people who get superpowers when they have an orgasm. You know, the usual. But this issue has a bunch of twists, not the least of which is that Suzy’s past issues aren’t past, in some rather surprising ways.

Pumpkinhead #1, Dynamite

Cullen Bunn and Blacky Shepherd get unleashed on the cult slasher franchise, and they admirably keep the cheesy tone of the proceedings while still having a bit of fun with it. If you’re unfamiliar, the franchise is set in Appalachia and the titular creature is a vengeance demon, grown out of the mix of European folklore that took root in those mountains. It’s all silly, of course, but Bunn and Shepherd know it, and lean into the cheese factor just hard enough to keep the book entertaining.

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