Deadhorse Part 1 is "weird" – and I mean that in the best way. There is a ton of mystery, a funny protagonist and some great and fitting artwork. Oh, and a crazy old couple who like to make fish sandwiches with live birds in them.
Yep, the best kind of "weird."
This is the first of three different arcs in Eric Grissom's graphic novel Deadhorse. The story takes place in several parts of Alaska. A lot of mystery and intrigue is created right at the beginning when a team of explorers find several dead bodies and collect a box that's contents are still unknown. Then, a man receives a letter from his father, who's been dead for forty years, telling him to protect a key and visit an old friend. Now, it's time for our reclusive protagonist to fulfill his father's wishes.
All of these events open a lot of questions in the readers' mind but no answers are given, which gnaws at the growing curiosity in readers' minds. But not only are the events mysterious, the first several panels with the protagonists are wonderfully written to characterize him as a recluse who likes talking to himself, leaving another question in the readers head as to how he got this way. His dialogue during these panels (which also feature an unresponsive beetle) is also very funny. Keep in mind, this takes place directly after panels cluttered with dead bodies. Quickly, Grissom has established that this title is not only going to have dark moments, but also funny ones.
The artwork helpfully lets readers know what they're getting themselves into right away by oozing with the comedic feel, though sometimes missing an eerie one. Artist Phil Sloan has a very cartoonish style and colorist David Halvorson uses a very bright array of colors to give this chapter a very cartoony feel. The only time I didn't think this artwork worked was at the beginning. All the characters designs included simple black dot pupils and one guy had a stenciled mustache. The opening panels also have awkwardly shaped shadows created by a lamp that look like furious ink splashed across the panel, and the entire color scheme feels dull. But the artwork vastly improves as soon as the chapter one title page begins, with a dead guy on fire, the eeriest page in the entire arc.
Nothing else in the arc catches quite that much eeriness artistically, but the character designs, which are the main pieces of this artwork, are great. The couple are quaint and unassuming and our protagonist's character design much more detailed than the opening characters. Even the shadows are improved upon, sometimes creating an ominous feel, like when the old man is beckoning William to sit down with his face streaked in shadows and a grimace etched on his face. I do hope to see more imagery like this and other panels as striking and eerie as our man on fire, but I'm content with the current cartoony feel that should hopefully spiral out into a much more darker atmosphere in the future arcs.
Grissom keeps the first chapter of Deadhorse full of questions with absolutely no answers that will have readers itching for the next chapter. Really, as I was reading this first part of Deadhorse I could not help but think of the popular comic book series Chew. The feel of this comic, both in the writing and artstyle, reminds me of Chew, another world full of cartoonish characters with lots of humor contrasted by violent moments. I hope Deadhorse continues to have this vibe and becomes as recognizable as Chew. So, fans of Chew and others who are interested in laughs and seemingly nonsensical horrors, check out the first Dead horse arc, "The Sandwich Eaters."
In another review, Deadhorse writer Grissom said, "We'll be releasing the individual chapters of Dead Birds (the first arc) digitally at 99 cents each – via PDF and places like Graphic.ly," said Grissom. "Once all five of them are out, we will offer a collected version in print. I have three such arcs planned that make up the entire story. It has a very definitive beginning and ending. " However, the fifth issue was so big the series will now be in six parts.
You can purchase copies by visiting deadhorsecomic.com, and at 99 cents an arc with this one being 28 pages, it is more than just a bargain but a steal to get this issue.
An all-around nerdette, I’m a comic book connoisseur, horror aficionado, video game addict, anime enthusiast and an aspiring novelist/comic book writer. I am the head of the comic book department and the editor-in-chief of Entertainment Fuse. I also write and edit articles for Comic Frontline. I am also an intern at Action Lab Entertainment, a comic book publisher at which I edit comic book scripts, help work on images in solicitations and help with other comic book related project. My own personal website is comicmaven.com.