In Review: Death One-Shot

Keres goes where she's never gone before and readers reap the rewards.

The covers: Coming out from her role as narrator of Grimm Tales of Terror, Keres gets a story that focuses on her, and to celebrate Zenescope has this one-shot getting six different covers. You may have to go to Hell and back to find them, but there are several strong frontpieces. The A cover is by Mike Krome and it features Keres being dragged down into a black liquid by several corpse-like characters. Though she bears her monstrous scythe, her weapon looks as though it will have no effect on these creatures. Nice layout to show the character involved in a struggle, while still having her shown clearly. The coloring also really helps with her being the only brightly colored object in the image. The B shows the judge from this issue, Death himself. This is a surprising choice for the cover by Marat Mychaels and Sanju Nivagune as it doesn’t feature Keres, but the individual whose will she must obey. Death looks like the Grim Reaper, which is to be expected, but the design work on the setting is really nice. It has an H.R. Giger feel to it. I’m liking this more than I thought, as I was expecting a red head on the cover. Renato Rei and Wes Hartman have Keres in manacles being escorted to her trail by Abaddon on the C. I like both the characters, with the work on Abaddon being impressive, but the background is too narrow for the characters, which has the side effect of making it appear that both are too close to one another. The D is by Giuseppe Cafaro and Stephen Schaffer. This one also has Keres in handcuffs, but now she stands with her back to the jury as a ghoulish prosecutor lambastes her. The look of Keres is really similar to Joseph Linser’s Dawn from Cry for Dawn, and it makes me feel like a trademark line has been crossed. I’m looking at this cover in the tiny image of the copy of this book I purchased, so there may be an acknowledgement to Linser for the look. The background characters are generic looking monsters with distorted heads. There are also two convention exclusive books. The first, the E, is limited to 500 copies and features art by Paul Green with colors by Ivan Nunes and it’s only available at the Salt Lake Comic Con. I couldn’t find an image of this cover online, so good luck tracking it down. The Alamo City Comic Con cover, the F,  by Elias Chatzoudis I did find online and —Wow!– you won’t forget this one. A red head wearing a darker red cowboy hat has her back turned to the reader. She’s holding her hat with her left hand, while she’s twisted her right around her front to aim her pistol at fans. She’s wearing a loose yellow crop top with the skimpiest Daisy Dukes I’ve seen. The ammo belt around her waist is bigger than her shorts. The artwork is gorgeous, as Chatzoudis’ work always is, and the colors are outstanding. Hommina-hommina-hommina. Overall grades: A A-, B A-, C C, D D+, F A+

The story: This one-shot starts in deceptively similar fashion to that of the Grimm Tales of Terror as Keres has finished telling a story that relates to the people listening. However, in her own words, “You’re too stupid to pick up on the similarities to the urban legend I just told you to the racket you have going on.” She tells them why she’s come among them and dispenses her version of justice using something, or in this case some “things”, to kill them. This is how an issue of that horror series ends, but this is only the beginning of this tale conceived by Joe Brusha and Ralph Tedesco and written by Tedesco. Walking from the carnage while whistling an ironic tune, Keres encounters Abaddon who tells her he’s been summoned to fetch her (no pun intended) for the Court of the Dead for her transgressions against humanity by taking lives. This is not an original idea, but where Tedesco goes with this tale is new ground. I was really impressed with what’s done to Keres and her reaction to what occurs. The conflict that begins on Page 27 was the right direction to steer Keres into conisdering where she’s been; it’s the most realistic of her episodes and has the bigger impact for the reader. The final three pages illustrate the change in Keres’ behavior, though hints it might be a one time only affair. A very impressive story for a fairly new character. Overall grade: A

The art: The visuals on this book are some of the strongest I’ve seen in a Zenescope book. Gregbo Watson does an outstanding job on Keres, whom readers would expect to be drawn as sexy, and she is, but the supporting characters are equally well drawn. For example, take a look at the people that share the opening six pages with her. The hat wearing, beer holding individual looks fanastic. with his face providing as much character as his dialogue. This is matched by the individual in the top two panels of Page 2 by the other male character. His close-up is excellent. Deb is also really well drawn, displaying a lot of emotion range with her stance and expressions (Page 2, panels four and five, and Page 3, panel four). Watson also creates a strong sense of action as shown in the final panel on 3. Keres’ true reveal is great, though I wish it had been a full page splash containing the antagonists’ reactions, which would have been much more dramatic than the tiny panel that is given. The Court of the Dead contains many neat looking characters (Thantos, Ankou, Pesta, as well as Death and Abaddon), and it was my first time seeing them. Their design is creepy and I hope they appear in other books. The defiance of Keres on 11 is wonderful — that’s terrific character work! The pages as Keres does her Sam Beckett impersonations are well done; the story provides several opportunities for Watson to do a variety of settings and characters with some unpleasant endings. The final page is a splash that’s an excellent cherry on top for this issue…Granted, a big bloody cherry, but excellent nonetheless. Overall grade: A

The colors: There are two colorists credited for this issue, Fran Gamboa and J.C. Ruiz. There’s no notation in the credits as to who is responsible for what, though some pages are noticeably better than others. The opening 24 pages are very well done. The colors are bright and make the visuals pop. This is apparent in the opening six pages which are set outdoors by a campfire. I really like the red lighting effects done on the characters, which also foreshadows their fates. The scenes at the Court of the Dead are also well done, with the sickly green being fantastic for creating an eerie mood for the affair. I love Keres on Page 11, which is the best colored image of the book. When Keres begins her series of adventures, the coloring starts strong for each tale told, but the double-page splash on 25 and 26 is just a mess. The imagery is a collection of occurrences for the protagonist, and the coloring could have highlighted each moment, but instead creates disharmony by being too passive — colors blend too easily into each other, making the art a blob. Nothing stands out because the colors aren’t strong enough. This lack of strong colors continues in the final tale, which is a shame because it could have had a lot more impact if the colors had been brighter. Granted, this is the most realistic tale, yet it’s also the final, and is the one that causes Keres to make a turn in her character. The art is fine, but the colors are so washed out as to neuter the story. Even the return of the sickly green from the Court of the Dead that returns on the penultimate page isn’t as strong as when it first appeared. This book is a strong example of how colors influence a story. Overall grade: C+

The letters: Zenescope is the leader in the industry for using lettering to create character, and I wish other companies were as good. In this book Fabio Amelia creates dialogue, Keres speech, sounds, yells, screams, Abaddon dialogue, demon speech, and Death dialogue. By giving the supernatural characters a font unique to themselves readers have an additional visual to tell them that the character is not human. Such font is particularly necessary in this story for what Keres does. It also gives a certain style to the characters, as the font represents who each is; they are as elegant as they are deadly. I want other books to follow Zenescope’s lead with making non-humans have their own speech. It’s done to some extent, but not nearly enough. There is one nick on Amelia’s work in this issue: Abaddon’s dialogue is too small. It’s readable, but should have been just a bit bigger to make it as easily read as all the other characters’. Still, I’d want to Amelia to do more work because he’s obviously got skills. Overall grade: A-

The final line: This is a worthy one-shot because the protagonist actually learns something from the actions in the story. This is not a one-off, there’s actual character growth, and that is a rarity in a medium that often seeks the quick buck. Keres goes where she’s never gone before and readers reap the rewards. An excellent issue that has me hankering for Grimm Tales of Terror. Overall grade: B+

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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