Deathbed is a quintessential Vertigo series, with adult themes and an occasional bit of nudity. It’s for adults, of course, and the first issue introduced its protagonist in a way that suggests he’s not only an egomaniac but possibly a madman. He’s also not afraid to let his penis fly in battle.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
It is with a heavy heart that we inform you of the passing of Margaret Mars, philanthropist, globetrotter and onetime lover of Antonio Luna. Her noble pursuit of humanitarian causes dates back to the first word she ever spoke (“Peace”), which is juxtaposed with the seven words she uttered right before being assassinated (“Who let these ninjas into my house?!”). Indeed, these seven words paint an inexplicably bizarre, yet accurate, picture of her final moments on earth. Who let these ninjas into her house, and why were they there to begin with? What business did a pack of inhuman zombie-mummy-ninjas have with Ms. Mars, and why did they murder her? Fascinating questions, none of which we have the answers to. But Ms. Mars would not want us to grieve! Ms. Mars’ will states her desire that we celebrate her life and not mourn her death (as horrific and gruesome as it may have been)! So come! Be merry and help us send off the great Maggie Mars in a way that honors her remarkable life!
Why does this matter?
Riley Rossmo is, in my opinion, one of the top three artists working in comics today. His style is gritty, unafraid, and exciting. Paired with Joshua Williamson, we are bound to get crazy ideas, great dialogue, and an execution that’s hard to resist.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
I love that dog!
The first issue threw us off, but it was still good. Problem is there are so many good comics each week it’s sometimes hard to buy them all. Thankfully this issue opens up Luna in a way that reveals there’s complexity to the man.
This issue opens with a crack to the jaw as possible crackpot and definite egomaniac Antonio Luna is rushing to save an old friend. In the sidecar of his motorcycle is Valerie Richards, ghostwriter and the woman devoted to writing down Luna’s story. Throughout the issue, Luna waxes poetic about old friends (all famous in some way) and how incredibly impressive his life has been. He’s basically giving her everything she needs to write the greatest biography ever written. The man is eccentric and wild in his choices and behavior. At times I was reminded of Hunter S. Thompson’s work as the narrative seems to change quickly, the characters are high energy, and the words are clear yet deranged. The main character is way over the top, and yet there’s a frailty to his pompous boasts that suggest something else is going on.
Like most eccentrics, there’s some semblance of a good man (or is it a child?) within, which is revealed in an interesting way during a funeral. In this scene, Luna learns the woman he loved may not have told a soul in her life about him after he scampered off. With an ego bruised he commands the attention of her children and all hell breaks loose. It’s in this scene Richards lets her frustrations with this man’s ego flare up. She remains endearing and cute in her own way and the story starts to reveal a layer to Luna that’s compelling. Then the s--t hits the fan and we’re off rushing to the cliffhanger. The book ends in a way as if to say Luna’s ego is so great he himself can’t control the perception he’s dealt to others. That gives the story a bit of hope, especially for Richards, who may be on to something.
Rossmo will make you linger on the page. From the opening splash page with all its little details (I love the barking dog) to his various layout structures, you’ll be captivated. Rossmo is never afraid to turn a panel askew which helps keep the reader uneasy and unsure. Scenes with groups of people always show off an eclectic mix of fashion, enhancing scenes and adding a layer of reality to the proceedings. When nudity is used it’s never gratuitous, but just a normal element in the scene, which can at times create a layer of weirdness and unease that enhances a moment.
He didn’t make it.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The story is all over the place, but I think that’s on purpose to add a sense of chaos and energy to the narrative. It opens with a chase which was not alluded to in the last issue, cuts to asides about Luna’s friends, dives right into a funeral scene, throws in a crazy flashback double page layout, closes with some heartfelt beats, and then cuts right to more chaos. The characters can never catch their breath and neither can the reader. Reading this can be frustrating to be sure–you’ll be screaming “what is going on?” through much of it–but I think that’s by design. It’s hard to say though until we reach the ending!
Is It Good?
A good piece of chaos controlled as we continue to explore an egomaniac who has lived a life that’s too big to tell. Williamson and Rossmo are crafting a tale that’s hard to put down. Deathbed is a genuine, manic-paced showcase of a twisted and crackling world worth exploring.