More than unfortunate, more than tragic, more than anything else, death is weird. It makes homes, people and situations strange again, ripped out of context because there’s someone missing. Taking inspiration from the Mexican Day of the Dead, this seems to be the central conceit behind “Dia De Los Muertos” – these (chiefly Rossmo-illustrated) stories centre on something other than grief, picking up on the otherworldly element inherent to the singular loss of a person. The result here is three distinct and excellent stories, each remarkable in its treatment of the wild world that lies beyond.
Written by Alex Link, Christopher Long, Dirk Manning
Illustrated by Riley Rossmo, Jean-Paul Csuka
Inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead, artist extraordinaire, RILEY ROSSMO (DEBRIS, GREEN WAKE, COWBOY NINJA VIKING, REBEL BLOOD) joins forces with nine different writers over three issues to tell tall tales from beyond the grave!
This issue’s writers are ALEX LINK (REBEL BLOOD), CHRISTOPHER LONG (X-Men Unlimited, Hiding In Time, Easy Way) and DIRK MANNING (NIGHTMARE WORLD, Write or Wrong). Future issues will feature stories by ED BRISSON (COMEBACK), ALEX GRECIAN (PROOF), JOE KEATINGE (HELL YEAH), JEFF MARRIOTTE (FADE TO BLACK), KURTIS WIEBE (PETER PANZERFAUST) and JOSHUA WILLIAMSON (XENOHOLICS).
In this issue: A mariachi falls in love with a woman who strongly resembles his lost love, a father is abused by a poltergeist, and a girl who’s mother died when she was born visits the land of the dead in her dreams.
‘Dead, But Dreaming’
Written by Alex Link (who collaborated with Rossmo on “Rebel Blood”), the first story is probably the oddest and most surreal in the collection. Centring on a young woman who can visit the land of the dead on October 31st, it seems about to go in five directions at once, plotwise, but still manages to create a satisfying story arc. And while some pieces don’t quite fit together (the role of the woman’s father is brought up as something of a mystery, but this mystery is never resolved), the combination of Alex Link’s long, unusually worded captions and Rossmo’s art (which is packed with surprising and charming and chilling details) is intoxicating. Nick Johnson’s colours also pull things together well, differentiating the land of the living and the land of the dead not so much through colour selection as colour intensity. And that’s an interesting statement in itself.
This story stands a little apart from the others in that Riley Rossmo takes on colouring duties and assists with layouts while Jean-Paul Csuka provides the rest of the art. Csuka’s style is a significant departure from Rossmo’s, more graphic and geometric and deliberately textured where Rossmo is sketchier, but it has a similar mad energy that really sparks the story into life. Meanwhile, Rossmo flies off the handle with the colours, setting everything down in bright pinks and purples and picking up on a certain irreverent, jaunty aspect to Christopher Long’s story about a family, some vengeful ghosts, and a “Paranormal Intuitive Life Coach”. The story itself is a little easy to predict, but it grounds the collection nicely by centering most intently on the deeds of the still-living.
‘Te Vas Angel Mio’
In what is likely the strongest and most memorable story in the issue, a man in a mariachi band encounters a woman who resembles his lost love, and she has some peculiar advice for him. Dirk Manning’s dialogue is wonderful, repeatedly stressing the man’s loquacity and the woman’s impermeable mysteriousness to near-comedic effect, and there’s a novel and touching moral in the end. And while the background detail that distinguishes “Dead, But Dreaming” is absent here, Rossmo puts a lot of energy into the wonderfully off-putting facial expressions that are fast becoming his trademark (his work on “Bedlam” should testify). Meanwhile, Megan Wilson’s colours are as bright and carnivalesque as can be, and while they “clean up” Rossmo’s lines in a kind of unusual way, the flat, vivid tones definitely add atmosphere to this concluding story.
All told, this is a remarkably cohesive issue that still manages to encompass a lot of variety. Rossmo’s art is at its kinetic and exuberant best, with Csuka’s pages providing a lot of energy and interest in their own right, and all three writers bring something unique to the table. And happily, there are two more issues left in this anthology series – with stories from such Multiversity favorites as Kurtis Wiebe and Ed Brisson, no less – so those of us in the land of the living have plenty to look forward to in “Dia De Los Muertos”.
Final Verdict: 9.0 – “To the living, all is lacking. And to the dead, all remains.”