Another month, another batch of new #1’s by Image Comics (Are they trying to break a record or something?). This week, in addition to The Spread, we see the launch of writer-artist Stjepan Sejic’s Death Vigil, a horror-fantasy mishmash in which see the titular supernatural guardians do battle with the Primordial Evil, an organization of necromancers and Cthulhu-esque demons hell-bent on escaping the underplane and devouring all life in the universe.
Our story begins with the good-natured but unlucky Samuel Lewis bleeding out in a vague, metropolitan alley on his way home from a Halloween party. Samuel, good Samaritan that he is, stops a mugging while dressed as a police officer (I guess too many people were already going as Captain America?), but gets stabbed in the stomach for his troubles. Samuel bites the dust, but because of his noble sacrifice he is recruited post-mortem into the Death Vigil by the Grim Reaper herself, a surprisingly cheerful woman named Bernadette. Joining the Death Vigil grants you eternal life, colors your hair stark white, and endows you with the ability to summon the dead to aid in the eternal battle against fight the Primordial Evil.
As an introductory issue, Death Vigil #1 does everything it needs to. The world of the comic is established nicely, the pacing is brisk, and the final page is a decent cliffhanger that, while not game changing, certainly has me interested in where the story goes from here.
I also appreciated the time spent with the characters this issue. The first fifteen pages or so are devoid of action and developing our three lead characters through dialogue, and it ends up working out very well in the comics favor. Samuel, Bernie, and Clara all have well defined personalities, quirks, and even fears. There are a few cases where Sejic tells us a character’s relationships and motivations where some showing might have been more effective, but it’s nothing too flagrant.
Sejic’s art is competent, even downright impressive at times (especially in facial expressions and character and creature designs), but there are a few hiccups that keep me from calling it great. The occasional extreme close-up of characters face can look rough and imprecise compared the crisp, clean style of the mid and far distance shots. This may be an issue of coloring, which is also good for the most part, but I did find a few instances of runny colors, like when Clara’s red shirt noticeably drifts into a white dinner table. I also found the backgrounds to be a little too bare for my tastes. For the most part, however, the personality and energy of the images outweighs the problems I have. A two-page spread where Samuel drags a long ship full of undead Vikings out of the underworld might be worth the price of the comic all by itself.
Speaking of which, $3.99 for 48 pages of story is a solid deal for Death Vigil #1. If that line of thinking dictates your purchases in any way, I’d give this comic a shot. If not, I’d recommend to those looking for a new series and might be attracted to something that’s one part Buffy, one part Bleach, and one part H.P. Lovecraft.