This week sees the first issue of a new series about one Hell of a jailbreak.

General Information

Title: Dead Man’s Run #0-1
Author: Greg Pak
Illustrator(s): Tony Parker (illustrator), Peter Steigerwald (colours, #0) and David Curiel (colours, #1)
Cover Date: November 2011 (#0) and February 2012 (#1)
Cover Price: $3.50 US

Premise

Hell is a prison accessible from Earth. When someone who works at the ground level is killed along with his sister, he starts planning a jailbreak to get his sister’s innocent soul out of the nastiest place one can imagine. (This is the summary of issue #1 that kicks off the series. Issue #0 shows the surface level status quo before these events.)

High Point

We’re used to the tough guy heroes, like John McLane, anyone Arnold Schwarzenegger plays, and so forth. Hell would be ready for them. This story centres around a character who has a background that gives him a real shot at becoming the first person to succeed where so many must have tried and failed before.

Low Point

Sometimes the art is a touch off model and tough to follow. Not often, but often enough.

The Scores

This is fairly original. The jailbreak from Hell has been done before (see, for example, Inferno by Niven and Pournelle: paper, digital), but the initial status quo and choice of hero set this apart from the others. I give it 4 out of 6.

The artwork is generally good. Viewed on a panel by panel basis, there are a few technical nitpicks that can be made, but nothing that obstructs the reader’s understanding of the events depicted in that particular panel. The character designs are distinct enough that there should be no problems telling one from another, which is important in a series that looks to have a “dimly lit” feel going for it. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is well told, with surprisingly little exposition. The world is built efficiently in the reader’s mind through direct character actions, so that one learns about the world without noticing that one is learning about the world. The pace of this story is very rapid. I enjoyed reading these single issues, but suspect the story will be most enjoyable to read in a single sitting because it is paced so rapidly. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization is light on some characters, due in part to the large cast. Although we don’t see as much character work as we often do in a first issue, what we do see convinces me that the creative team has fully realized characters in mind that we’ll get to know over time. Putting more character moments here would require enough additional space that the main plot of the series wouldn’t have been revealed in the first issue, so the sacrifice was probably the right one. The first volume of the collected edition will probably not suffer from this issue. (I’m not sure how many collections there will be; the solicitations I can find don’t mention the length of the run, though the concept strongly implies it will be finite.) I give it 3 out of 6.

The emotional response is stronger than I expected with the light character work. I have enough interest in the world and storyline that I’m willing to wait for the characterization to come out in the natural course of events. I give it 5 out of 6.

The flow is where the art starts to break down. There are two or three points in the story I had to do double takes to make sure I was following scene changes and the like. Some of that is Parker’s work, but in other cases, it also comes down to having a uniform colour pallete throughout the prison. If the warden’s office used slightly different colours than other locations, for example, those moments would have stood out somewhat better. I give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, this series is off to a good start. I’d recommend picking it up, though it may be hard to come by in small shops given that it’s from Aspen press instead of one of the larger companies and isn’t readily stocked by “mom and pop” operations. (Though, come to think of it, “mom” is rarely involved in small comic shops.) I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Dead Man’s Run #0-1 receives 30 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

This is the first time I’ve read a paper copy of a book published by Aspen, though I have read some of their digital product. I’m really impressed with the quality of the paper stock. It’s unrelated to the actual content and is probably the same across their entire line, but I felt it was worth mentioning for those who don’t read in digital (or not exclusively digital.)