Overview

The Deadlander #1

Review

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The Deadlander #1

Credits

  • Words: Kevin Ferrara
  • Art: Kevin Ferrara
  • Inks: Kevin Ferrara
  • Colors: Kevin Ferrara
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Oct 10, 2007

The Deadlander is a man cursed to live beyond death, a gunslinger decaying, yet walking, a two-gun zombie who seems the most wanted man “alive.”

Having reviewed Graveslinger #1 earlier this week, it was a bizarre experience to jump straight into The Deadlander, which conceptually seems the exact inverse—where Graveslinger was about a man in the Old West hunting down the undead, Deadlander is about an undead who hunts down the living.  But Kevin Ferrara’s book holds little beyond the most unspecific in common with Denton and Mariotte’s Image mini, stepping out into creative waters no fan will want to miss.

Ferrara handles all artistic angles in Deadlander—plot, script, illustrations, color, lettering, you name it, he’s doing it, a veritable auteur, if yet unknown.  Due to such singular creative control the comic comes across as something indelibly unique, with flourishes of obvious  inspirations but unlike anything else in ultimate effect.  Imagine, if you will (hell, if you can), Alexander Jodorowski should he write an EC horror graphic novel after glutting himself on Trigun manga.  The ambiance and foundational tenor is pure old-school Eerie, though the artistic layout and dialogue often resonates with a European overlay, lush with portrait-quality pages covered in square-shaped word balloons filled with dimly off-kilter dialogue, as though it were translated, strangely creative in word choice and yet stiff in overall structure.  Even beyond the European influences, there’s a childish quirkiness that pervades every moment, a sort of Fred Perry/Gold Digger vibe that clearly stems from manga’s irreverent use of asides and intermittent comedy, no matter the subject matter.

So the book is an original creation, but does it work?  Is it “good?"  Yes, 100%, it is, it’s a dense, jam-packed read, filled with images and verbiage and a sense of every small detail having been designed into a larger, visual-textual whole, which all comics should aspire to be, though most are far too disjointed to claim.  Like all good works of non-formula storytelling, there’s a learning curve to the event of reading Deadlander; it’s a story that teaches you how to decipher its flow as it goes, but the learning isn’t a chore, and in fact kept me quite enthralled throughout, effortless though not non-existent.

The drama is melodramatic, the characters clownish, almost operatic in their personalities, but the story is just this side of mythical, and embraces the more camp-saturated styles of yesteryear.  In short, while the bits and pieces seem wholly disparate and archaic, the actual compilation that is Deadlander #1 proves convincing as a controlled, considered, masterful opening act.  Usually, in European comics, for all their creativity and gorgeous artwork, a fair likeability factor tends to get lost in the translation, most especially flow and any work’s given thematic self-importance.  But Ferrara, seemingly weaned on such translations yet requiring none himself, manages a product that wields the best while sidestepping the worst.

I hadn’t heard of Kevin Ferrara before I read this series, and I’m uncertain what he’s up to for his follow-through, but I’ll definitely be reading the rest of Deadlander.  He’s an outstanding artist, and an inventive writer on par with Erik Larsen and Joe Casey for his confident use of non-standard storytelling techniques.  Anyone looking for something as classic as it is sweetly unlike anything else you’ll be picking up off the racks anytime soon, The Deadlander will satisfy systematically, through-and-through.

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