Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer #2


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Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer #2


  • Words: Joshua Ortega, Nat Jones, & Jay Fotos
  • Art: Nat Jones
  • Inks: Nat Jones
  • Colors: Jay Fotos
  • Story Title: Shadows of Mirahan, Part 2
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: May 16, 2007

Image’s best-selling title continues, at long last giving an updated origin to Frazetta’s legendary frontispiece character. Is it as good as the numbers say?

The story is a somewhat familiar one: a little Spawn, a little Spawn: The Dark Ages, and a little Spawn: Godslayer, all minced and tossed and served once again within the Dark Ages. In issue #1, readers were introduced to a world once plagued by war, though long since stabilized and at peace. But now comes a new supernatural threat: an army of the undead that marches to devour all. The World Tree, in a reactionary move of some sort, absorbs one of the undead’s victims – a young man whose soul returns for the love of a girl he promised he’d come back to – transforming him into a force not seen since the old wars ended: the Death Dealer. In issue #2, the battle begins as the undead reach their first stronghold of humanity, and into this morass of violence rides the Death Dealer. What his purpose is, what side he chooses, whether he has a side or is simply Death incarnate, and why the undead monsters’ seem pleased as punch to have him up against them, remains to be seen.

The inaugural issue was relatively strong, though it contained nothing unique, and this second issue suffers second-issue-itis, with little of the plot advancing, the action only just beginning, and the writer’s use of character seemingly torn between setting them where they need to be and fleshing them out beyond their first-issue introductions, managing, ultimately, neither in any affecting way. Novelist Joshua Ortega brings an ardently standard high-fantasy flavor to the tale, keeping it bleak and dark and deadly but never pushing the boundaries much beyond. Thus far, the tale of the Death Dealer has been a predictable one, which is not to say poorly told, but then neither has it been surprising or adventuresome in any way. For all the criticism the 90’s one-shots received for their wafer-thin plots, this new series lacks the elemental, nearly manga-esque, Grand Guignol fury that so suits the character, that so reflects his instant, visceral influence upon any person’s imagination when first they lay eyes on him.

It is, however, heartening that the series still has four issues to go, which may mean that there is more to the tale than has been presented. Of course, if the progression of character and event doesn’t speed the hell up, then this may only infer that readers have a far greater budget to lose than the story in fact demands (at $3.99 an issue, it’s nearly required that the creators produce a more substantial story within its pages than they have until now). The final page of issue #2 is a worthwhile cliffhanger, definitely quite the hook, and it’s certainly the beginning of a subplot that may make or break this series as a whole, by proving it as something beyond a mere slaughterfest. Although, again, the possibilities for this aspect being handled with rote execution – especially should the writers treat it in too similar a fashion to Spawn or Godslayer – are staggeringly elevated, and by and large, looking at what’s been offered until now, my hopes for this series aren’t high.

Nat Jones and Jay Fotos continue to produce solid art, though even here nothing exceptional, and nothing that isn’t highly evocative of what has already been enjoyed during Jones’ run of Spawn: The Dark Ages. The atmosphere is well constructed, however, no matter how repeat it may seem; in fact, Jones’ reuse of his stylistic approach to Dark Ages allows him to effortlessly create a world well suited to Death Dealer, and the great character himself is very well etched, looming larger and more haunting over every other demon, creature, undead monster, and warrior of the tale.

Is it as good as the numbers say? No, not really, but it isn’t a bad series. Certainly not worth the $3.99 cover price, not until it proves itself as something with a greater substance than what has come before, but it is aptly atmospheric, and it does maintain a script that’s only laughable and cliché in a smattering of places while overall using dialogue and set-up that’s easy on the mental ears. Still, it’s horridly uninspiring that this great character’s origin is so Spawn-like (dead guy coming back for left-behind love as supernaturally-powered thing that’s nearly unstoppable). I dearly wished the series’ creators could have wracked their heads for a more original, worthy conceit, especially for such a long-lasting icon, but in the end, my call is that Death Dealer could still use a further update when Shadows of Mirahan concludes.

This isn’t the ultimate version of the ultimate picturesque character, but just a version, riddled by fantasy clichés and McFarlane-inspired tropes.

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