Hey, remember The Dying and the Dead from Jonathan Hickman? Yeah, last time you saw this was back in January. Kind of unfortunate to launch a brand new series and then immediately have a two month break between the first and second issues. Doesn’t do much for momentum, I would say. However, let’s not be too negative and let’s just focus on what we finally got. Is it good?
The Dying and the Dead #2 (Image Comics)
To reclaim this all powerful and mysterious object, the Bah al’Sharur, the colonel is going to need to get the old (and by old, I do mean old) gang back together again to pull off this daring mission. It may involve a bit of driving, but it’ll all be worth it if they can pull this mission off.
And that’s about it for the story in a nutshell. This is basically your “Get the whole gang back together again” story that we’ve seen plenty of times before. Some people are easy to convince and some are hard to reach. As such, outside of introducing more characters to the comic, we don’t make any progression on the main storyline and this whole job everyone is doing seems like it’ll actually be going on next time. It makes for a pretty slow and almost uneventful issue, which is not the best way for the series to return after a two month break.
…okay. Where did this retirement home find this cartoonishly evil guy?
That being said, I can fully and confidently say this issue was a massive improvement over the last. It removed all of the long, pretentious and winding narration and monologuing. It didn’t feel nearly as padded or decompressed, the characterization felt stronger, and the pacing was better. Most of the major issues have been addressed and fixed here, making for a much more enjoyable experience. It shows a level of skill that I honestly really don’t see that often from Hickman.
The strongest part of the comic was the characterization (it certainly helped there was less of the clichéd “secret people” that look down on humanity), doing a pretty solid job of introducing the new cast and fleshing them out a bit. The best of the new characters was Doyle Beller, who got the most focus in the issue and in his introduction and really felt like a developed character (just seeing him interact with the people around in the retirement home is really enlightening and says a lot about the character). The others, while not getting as much time or focus as Doyle (whose introduction takes up about half of the book), are also pretty well characterized in just a few sentences or pages. The only people who were weak and not that interesting were the orderlies that just feel like over the top caricatures and the woman from the City, who is just generic and really doesn’t do much (outside of bleeding milk if the artwork is to suggest).
Oh man, looks like they’ll have a crazy party with those kinds of drugs!
Like I said, the pacing is better and moves much quicker, not having any long and drawn-out sequences where a character monologues obsessively. That leads to a much tighter and more focused story and scenes play out much more naturally. The dialogue is much smoother and comes across a bit more normal than last time, leading to conversations between characters that feel more natural and human. Sure, there are moments where a character might start going off about their motivation or monologue a bit and that’s where it gets a bit annoying, but it’s nowhere close to being as bad as before. Again, since this is all about getting all the characters back together again, not much exciting or intense goes on here. No real tension or thrills, just plain old characterization. Nothing wrong with that, but again, maybe we could have had something to get us excited for next time.
The artwork is probably the weakest part of the comic this time around. The penciling and inking are both fine and there are really no problems, outside of the occasional awkward looking facial expression. The problem here is the coloring, which still remains so drab and dull. The colors are so bland and lifeless with how much brown and yellow are used, really making for such a flat and dreary looking comic. The coloring just honestly saps the life and energy out of this book.
Is It Good?
The Dying and the Dead #2 feels like a significant step up, really doing away with a lot of the problems that were plaguing the first issue. While the story was on the weak side and the coloring was lifeless, the characterization felt very strong here (stronger than anything I’ve seen with a Hickman comic) and the writing improved by doing away with a lot of the dull monologues and fixing the pacing. Hopefully this means good things for this title going forward.