Dead Man Holiday # -1
- Words: Colin Panetta
- Art: Colin Panetta
- Publisher: Mysterious Transmissions
- Price: $3.99
- Release Date: Dec 30, 2009
Posted by Steven Surman on Dec 12, 2009
I offer these words of advice to any and all who read Colin Panetta’s Dead Man Holiday: simply let go and enjoy the ride. His is a comic book not of structured plots and complex characters—it’s a visceral experience of the unbridled imagination. If this book was ever adapted into an amusement park attraction, it would surely be modeled after Disney World’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (which sadly closed its doors in September 1998); it’s filled with ups and downs, lights and shadows, and twists and turns that left me mentally reeling, and that’s the very reason why I’ve grown to truly enjoy the book.
Dead Man Holiday is set in Little Atlantis, a flooded city haunted by weird specters and policed by even weirder security guards. Among them is Thad Planck, a young guy sporting a wild head of hair and a dangerous persistence for sniffing out the oddities of the city he patrols. But I feel it’s best if I end the description there. Anymore, and I run the risk of recounting a story that resembles a confusing dream that will make sense to no one except for me.
But then, that’s the beauty of Dead Man Holiday that I didn’t fully appreciate when the series was first brought to my attention back in March of this year. The most current issue is “-1,” which reads as “minus one.” Panetta’s series has been counting down to this issue since its debut -3 installment. But it’s not possible to fairly analyze any single issue in this countdown trilogy; the content of each book fits together like a complex puzzle piece. It would be like trying to fairly evaluate a single issue of Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles—an impossible and unfair assignment.
Dead Man Holiday certainly does break all of my rules for a structured narrative, but I almost don’t care—not completely, but almost. What Panetta trades for structure is one of the most solid stream-of-consciousness tales I’ve ever experienced in an independent comic. Most creators obey the laws of order, but Panetta channels chaos, pushing the imagination to its limit. Because of this, I think it’s safe to say that Panetta is the David Lynch of the independent comics scene.
It’s clear that the creator’s chief talent is his artwork. I don’t mean his illustrations alone, which are fantastically unique themselves. His characters and creatures look like Hanna-Barbera models twisted and demented by a DMT trip. But it’s more than Panetta’s illustrations: it’s the precision of his panel layouts and the fine details he captures in each and every frame. Panetta can lay out an amazing page as well as any weathered pro, and that is a fact; his understanding of sequential art is strong and confident. It has to be—the vast majority of the three issues are silent, completely dependent on the actions and reactions of the characters combined with the bleak and bizarre atmospherics of the various settings presented to readers.
For anyone interested in sampling Dead Man Holiday, the first and second issues are offered free of charge as direct PDF downloads on the comic book’s official website. In conjunction with Indy Comic Book Week, the third installment will be sold in select comic book stores and is available for preorder online. It’s certainly a title worth checking out, of that I’m sure.
I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing a large selection of independent comics: some are all right, many are good, and a select few are excellent. And then there are those that leave a lasting impression, a recollection that pops up even after months since the book was first read. Dead Man Holiday is one of those books. And if a comic leaves a lasting impression that pokes at the brain to wonder what will happen next in the series, then isn’t it a success? I certainly think so.
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