Written by: James Maddox
Art by: Jen Hickman
What happens when you die is a question that has plagued mankind for through the centuries. Our very first moments of intelligence were learning to fear death; to fear the unknowing and understand that there is no coming back. For mankind to cope with the tragedy but certainty of death we had put our faith into the idea that there was life after death. The stories vary depending on who’s telling them but the truth is no one will really know until it happens to them. James Maddox explores this idea of life after death in his comic The Dead.
In this version of the afterlife when you die you walk up in a black room, a room you can fill with whatever you imagination. Your room is connected to a seemingly infinite network of other rooms also created by a deceased and together with a variety of dangerous and deadly monsters you all live in “The House.” James Maddox is building a curious, creative and adventurous world in The Dead. Through the 4 issues that are currently available he has established an intriguing tale that follows newcomer Sam as he experience death and resurrection in “The House.” Through Sam we experience the first moments of entering the house and slowly begin to peel away its secrets.
Maddox wastes no time throwing our main character into the day to day of “The House,” as we are quickly introduced to our main cast, learn about The Houses’ potential, it’s ghoulish residents and what everyone does to pass the time. Maddox is weaving multiple plot threads in The Dead and each is as intriguing as the next. The main crux of the book and where most of the action and adventure lies is in the hunts. These are expeditions to the various rooms to capture the monsters within and bring them back to Devi, The Houses’ gracious host and entertainer she is determined to create the ultimate zoo.
While the hunts are the main focus for now, Maddoxs’ is building a much bigger plot in the background that involves Arthur; a long time resident and researcher of The House and its secrets. Alix a former partner of Arthur and his research team believes Arthur knows more than he is letting on and can unlock The Houses’ mysterious. Only time will tell where this all is leading but the first 4 issues of The Dead are a fantastical ride of action, adventure and intrigue as Maddox’s plays around with one of humanities greatest questions.
Supplying the visual candy for this series is artist Jen Hickman. She uses a simple cartoonish style that reminds me of John Romita Jr. without the hard jaw lines and similar facial structures. Hickmans character designs are each unique and invoke the personality of the characters. Often the best parts of these issues are when all of Hickmans’ characters are get up close and personal in the panels as their subtle details really begin to shine. Hickman’s art may not be for everyone though as it can lack detail and feel inconsistent at times. But the animation inspired art style does make the more brutal and heavy scenes more palatable as a more realistic approach could have felt over the top and in it for the shock value. Instead Hickmans’ subtle and whimsical aren’t gives the subject matter just the write amount of color and pop to keep it fun and adventurous.
The Dead is an inspired concept that takes a century old idea to a whole new level. Maddox and Hickman seem to be the perfect pair to bring this daring story to life. Both seem to be having fun with the concept and enjoy building this world and story into something special. The Dead is definitely worth your time as money as it offers a fresh take on an age old idea, offering adventure, fun and mystery while answering the question, “What Happens When You Die?”