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5 Days to Die #1

Written by Eli Katz on Thursday, September 02 2010 and posted in Reviews

IDW's weekly noir book gets the once over from the smartest guy at the outhouse.

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

Published by IDW
Written by Andy Schmidt
Art by Chee

Ray Crisara, a tough cop who's survived a terrible car accident, discovers his wife is dead and his daughter is in critical condition. Believing this was a planned hit by the city's drug lord he's been pursuing, Ray's brain injury leaves him five days before he dies to either track the killer, or be there for his little girl. Ray's clock is ticking


In the 1950 noir classic, D.O.A., Frank Bigelow is infected with a slow-acting poison that will kill him within the next 48 hours. With his strength fading, Frank spends the next two days learning who his killer is and then bringing the man to justice. His desperate race against time -- coupled with the inevitability of his death -- transforms this murder mystery into one of the most gripping crime films ever made. The premise of D.O.A. is so utterly enthralling that it has inspired two remakes (including one starring Dennis Quaid) as well as a number of thinly disguised copycats.

The latest copycat is FIVE DAYS TO DIE #1 by former Marvel editor Andy Schmidt and the monosyllabic artist Chee. In this retelling, Detective Ray Crisara and his family are hit by a speeding transport truck as they drive home from a party in their four-door sedan. Crisara wakes up in a hospital bed and learns that he has sustained, for the most part, minor injuries. There's just one complication. He has debris from the collision lodged inside his head. "It's moving deeper the more you move around," a doctor explains to him. "Normal blood flow pulsing is slowly pushing it through the memory and perception-processing areas of the brain." If Crisara does not remain in bed, absolutely still, the debris will push further into his head and will kill him within the next five days. Hence the title of the comic.

Crisara refuses to sit around and wait for the operation, however. He's certain that the truck intentionally rammed his car off the road, and that a man named Hoverman ordered the hit against him. Crisara has been investigating Hoverman for a long time, and he suspects the attempt on his life proves that he's close to nailing his target. But Crisara's partner pleads with him to forget Hoverman. "Enough!" he yells, grabbing Crisara by the shirt. "You're obsessed with Hoverman! It's cost you all your friends. It's costing you your marriage. You've always been hard-nosed. But now ... it's just insanity." Predictably, Crisara ignores his partner's pleas and, equipped with a handgun and a fistful of painkillers, he runs through the city in search of his nemesis.

FIVE DAYS TO DIE #1 is a fast paced, wildly dramatic first issue that matches the excitement of its noir source material. Schmidt has penned an opening chapter that is both brazenly derivative and truly captivating. But as much as this book is a retelling of a familiar story, FIVE DAYS differs from D.O.A. in three important respects. First, unlike Bigelow, Crisara is not doomed to die at the outset. He chooses to endanger himself and exacerbate injuries by moving from his hospital bed. Second, Crisara isn't interested in bringing his killer to justice; he simply wants to gun down Hoverman before the man slips past authorities again. In this way, FIVE DAYS has a lot more in common with some ultra-violent Charles Bronson revenge flick than a noir classic. Third, because Crisara has suffered major brain trauma, he not only faces death but also, perhaps, mental collapse. In this way, FIVE DAYS features an increasingly unstable sleuth who has more in common with a Christopher Nolan protagonist than a classic crime hero. These differences are important and they give FIVE DAYS just enough originality to make it a worthwhile read.

The art in this book is appropriately dark and often monochromatic. Chee produces illustrations that are highly realistic and yet capture the feverish agitation of the protagonist. He makes Crisara look ferocious and out of control, a man who is bandaged and bleeding and on the loose. But, at the same time, he gives Crisara strong, chiseled features -- the profile of a traditional leading man -- and makes you believe that Crisara has the inner strength to overcome life-threatening injuries. Many panels lack background details and are filled instead with hazy lights and thick shadows. This lack of detail is effective because it makes Crisara's world look nightmarish and dangerous.

Based on this first issue, FIVE DAYS TO DIE promises to be both a riveting manhunt and an intense portrait of a damaged, fanatical, perhaps even insane detective. This comic is by no means the best or the most thoughtful crime book available right now, but its plot is so outrageously pulpy that you can't help but love it.

Review by: Eli Katz

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