Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Deadbeats: A Snark Free Review

A few thoughts, since I just finished the first two trade paperbacks that collect the first 12 issues of DEADBEATS, the long-running vampire comic published by Claypool Comics. Actually, calling it a "vampire comic" is a bit simplistic because the comic is probably closest in spirit to the old DARK SHADOWS TV series, in that it's actually a supernatural adventure/horror/soap opera comic that happens to feature vampires.

The series is the brainchild of writer/artist Richard Howell, who is probably best known for his tenure as the penciller for the 12-part VISION AND SCARLET WITCH series that Steve Englehart wrote in the 1980's. He's far more than just an artist, though, as proven by his self-published PORTIA PRINZ series, and his eclectic credits doing both art & writing for most of the major comic companies.

DEADBEATS has become something of Howell's magnum opus, and it plays to his strengths as both artist and writer. In a nutshell, it's the story of five scheming vampires, and the havok they wreak on a small, Eastern town. Along the way, readers are introduced to a wide variety of vampire hunters and people who's lives have been radically changed as the vampires pursue their mysterious goals in the town.

Change and chacterization are the keys to the series, and Howell does a great job of moving the action of the series along while simultaneously making the readers care about the people involved. That way, when the characters are faced with difficult situations, they actually have a stake in the outcome. I can quite honestly tell you that I was more invested in the characters in DEADBEATS after three issues than I was after reading 12 issues of many recent bestselling comics. (Notice how I avoided the snark?)

The art, by Howell and Ricardo Villagran, fits the gothic subject matter perfectly. Like the weird love-child of Stephen Bissette and Jack Kirby, the art is both powerful and incredibly detailed. Conjuring up the best of the old Hammer Horror films and the aforementioned Dark Shadows, the comic also has the benefit of not being on the moviemaker's meager budget. As a result, there are some great fantasy sequences coupled with some all-too-rare-in-horror-comics actual horrific moments.

One more thing: Each issue of DEADBEATS is filled with action and character development. While most comics take me about 10-15 minutes to read, DEADBEATS takes closer to 25-30 minutes, due to the density of art and words on the page. At $2.50 an issue, it's a MUCH better reading deal than the typical Marvel or DC fare. Yes, it's in black & white, but in DEADBEATS case that actually works quite well, fitting in perfectly with its dark tone.

Since the story is quite intricate, and seems to be building on itself, like all good soap operas do, I'd recommend starting with the trade-paperback that collects the first 6 issues. If you like it, the comic is currently up to something like #75, and Claypool keeps ALL of their back-issues in print. Highly recommended.

The tradepaperbacks and individual back issues can be ordered from your local retailer or directly from Claypool at the web address found here:


That's all for now. I'd welcome comments and suggestions for upcoming columns! Let me know someone's out there reading this!!


Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Good work, DJ!


3/02/2006 9:19 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home