Greg Pak's new indie book brings to mind three words: Jailbreak From Hell
Credits & Solicit Info:
Dead Man's Run #0
Published by: Aspen
Written by: Greg Pak
Illustrated by: Tony Parker
Colored by: Peter Steigerwald
Lettered by: Josh Reed
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love comic books. I love reading them, collecting them, sharing them, and – maybe most of all – I love talking about comics. When I saw that Greg Pak was sending out review copies of his new book, Dead Man's Run (DMR) #0, I jumped at it (and, well, who doesn't want a free comic book?). As soon as I was able, and with a five month old who knew when that would be, I got comfortable in my chair and dove into DMR #0 with absolutely no idea what the story was going to be expecting to be entertained.
And I was.
For the most part.
DMR #0 starts off in a Los Olividos, California convenience store of some sort with a uniformed man is trying to make a purchase with limited funds. Very quickly we learn that the uniform belongs to employees of the nearby 'Andrew Jackson Corrections Facility' and that the broke gentleman is the Captain of the Guards. Captain Romero's attention is quickly drawn to an explosion in front of the prison.
At this part of the story, most readers would expect Captain Romero to be getting ready to lead his troops into the prison to stop the riot or escape or whatever the issue might be, but instead he and his troops are barricading the perimeter and fortifying their positions. It seems that the guards' mandate is "to keep whatever's in from getting out." The guards do not enter the prison, ever. They are not there to guard the prisoners; they are there to guard the public from the prisoners.
Without giving too much of the story away, after being told by a representative of the prison board that his mandate has changed Romero gets a hold of the Warden, ten miles below the prison, who tells him that on no uncertain terms is he to try and enter the prison because "The rules are there for [his] protection...There's too much danger...too much temptation." Of course he goes in, and on page 6 (of a 12 page story) we find out what the explosion set off – a "jailbreak from Hell." This prison is where Hell dispenses justice to the damned.
As for what happens to our main character once he gets in there, all I'll say is that he does not have the best of days.
There is a lot of potential here. The idea of Hell as a prison is intriguing, and in the right hands, and I am sure that it is, should be a compelling tale. The problem is that I am not sure what this issue was supposed to accomplish. As a #0 for a book whose first issue won't be out for a couple of months, its not really written as a true introduction to the universe, more of a teaser. There are many unanswered questions after finishing the comic, and that is a good thing, but the reader is not left with the feeling that all of them will be addressed in the future series. This is a 0 issue, for lack of a better phrase, does it count? Will elements from this issue be referred to later on? Will readers of issue one be lost without this or will this be ignored from here on out?
These are issues all 0 issues face, and I hope that whatever is best for the story is the path that is taken, but I have a feeling that there might be some easter eggs later on for readers of #0.
There are some flaws with the comic. There are major inconsistencies with Romero's actions and stated goals. I get that he doesn't want other characters to know what he is up to at all times, but on the way to the prison he seems to be preparing to go in, but as soon as he gets out of the car he starts fighting with the Board representative about not going in. Why? Seems to me that he is given permission to do exactly what he wants and could just as easily use it as cover for his real intentions. Also, Romero is only referred to by name once. After that we have to rely on visual queues to determine who he is, and that becomes a real issue deeper in the comic. Once we get past the overly complicated way Romero gets into the prison the writing aspect of the comic continues without any more problems.
My major concern with this book is the art. From page to page it is not always that easy to tell who is who. As I hinted at above, there were multiple times that I thought I was being introduced to a new character when it turned out that it was Romero in a new light or he changed into his battle armor. Once the action starts (c'mon, it's a prison break form Hell, is the revelation of action really a spoiler?) it becomes very difficult to tell who is doing what or even who is talking. Parker goes so far as to make sure we see Romero's name on his armor, but that detail is lost quickly inside the prison, and when half the characters are wearing helmets you can't even look for the old bald guy.
All in all I give this issue a solid B-, with hope that the on-going builds on its potential. I have enough faith in the man that was able to make The Incredible Hulk and Hercules must reads to have already made a note to pre-order the first issue of this when its available on DCBS. That being said, if the art isn't tighter I am not sure I can keep Dead Man's Run on my pull list. Can't really enjoy a comic when you can't tell what's going on.
Review by: GHERU