All right then. I’ve been trying to write this blog post on and off for days and I’ve not been satisfied with it. I’m waffling and telling tangential stories and not getting to the points I want to make, and as a result this post is live several days later than intended.
So now I’m going to start from the basics and work my way outward from there. Having read issues 1, 2 and 3, I can happily say:
Death Vigil is the only comic book I’m glad to own.
It makes me happy.
I love its characters.
I’d love to hang out with them.
What makes them so hang-outable?
They’re a family in the best way.
See, if I were to try and tell you about the concept of Death Vigil, I’d tell you it was about a secret group of monster slayers, each one brought back from the dead and granted immortality so that they can stop an eldritch force from consuming us all.
I might then tell you about the leader of the Death Vigil, The Reaper, who claims the souls of the worthy recently-deceased to serve in the Vigil. The Reaper is millennia old, and the one being whom the ancient evil and the necromancers who serve it truly fear.
Yeah, okay. it sounds like some pubescent took the “badass” bits of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard and mashed them together to produce something that misses the point of both. I mean, come on. The Reaper? Can you get any more cliché? Paging John “Reaper” Grimm from the Doom movie! You’re expecting skull faces, furrowed brows, thousand-yard-stares, square-jawed proclamations.
Except, this is The Reaper:
She prefers to be called Bernie (short for Bernardette, you see). Though Vigil member Sam once refers to her as the “general” of the group, Bernie is more like the eldest sister of the family who somehow escaped that horrid “first child syndrome” of taking oneself way too seriously. She banters, she puns (like when bringing Clara back from the dead in issue 2), she even pulls the odd practical joke (like when bringing Sam back from the dead in issue 2).
Though many characters use this as a mask for their real feelings, Bernie loves her people of the Vigil enough to be vulnerable around them. The above example of being caught head-banging and air-guitaring to her iPod is a good one, sure. But then there’s Bernie’s second appearance in issue 1, when she delivers news of the death of two Vigil-members to Sam. It’s Bernie who ends up needing his comfort.
And the affection is mutual.
In issue 2, we meet the formidable warrior Marlene, who quests to create a camera lens that will take Bernie’s picture (mortals cannot see her), but not to establish proof of The Reaper’s existence to the public. “We have quite a few Vigil family photos… and she (Bernie) is in none of them,” Marlene explains in issue 3. “So… y’know. Call it a hobby.”
Virtually every character that author and artist Stjepan Sejic has created for the Vigil is like this. They know that they’ve been gifted a second chance and that the world depends on them. Yet they still find time to be themselves and are willing to rub each other up the wrong way now and again – because they’re family. I’d say, even more so than the often-directly-at-odds crew of Mal Reynolds’ ship Serenity in the much-loved Firefly.
There are mysteries, of course, and the seeds for potential discontent amongst the Vigil.
Stjepan has a few secrets up his sleeve, ones that even the bad guys don’t understand (thankfully).
Where do Bernie and her immortality-granting, veilripper-creating scythe come from?
What is the deal with the strange goings on surrounding new Vigil member Clara? Where is the mysterious… thing that came through the tear in the veil that Clara’s then-boyfriend killed her to open? What does it have to do with her itching back and glowing eyes?
And just what and how the hell with
Heinrich Allistor and his daughter Mia? (I don’t want to write any more about them for fear of wrecking it for you, folks. They were introduced at the end of issue 1, and I started having my theories, but when they reappeared in style in issue, #3, some of my questions were answered only to have me going both “That is awesome!” and “?!?!?!”)
But unless and until the Vigil starts to distrust one another – which will only hurt even more because I’ve come to enjoy their company so much – I’m glad that Sejic has given me the chance to visit their home and hang out with them while they bring an end to evil in the dark corners of the world (or, at least, North America – I think we’ll meet some members of the European and Asian chapters soon, though).
Oh, three more reasons why I love Death Vigil:
1. It’s entertaining action adventure.
I know I just spent most of this article writing about The Feels, as the kids say nowadays. But as I wrote at the beginning of this posting, Death Vigil is about a bunch of immortal kickers of eldritch ass. And some pretty foul monsters from the abyss get their ectoplasmic glutes handed to them in epic fashion. There’s action, there’s witty dialogue, there’s even, to Sam’s chagrin, shirtless dudes aplenty.
2. It looks fantastic.
Did I mention that Stjepan Sejic is both author and artist of Death Vigil? He does everything bar the ads (more on those next) and boy, does he have skills.
Many comic books, you see, break writer, sketcher, inker and colourist into jobs for separate individuals. Sejic is taking the lot on himself, which not only illustrates (sorry) what a labour of love Death Vigil is for him, but also how good he is. I mean, just check the Death Vigil folder on his DeviantArt profile (which includes character sketches, jokes, ideas, previews and even significant chunks of issues 1 and 2). I wish I could be as good at drawing AND colouring as he is.
Okay, okay, fine. I wish I could be one tenth as good at either drawing or colouring as Sejic is. Still, I’ve only been at this for a handful of months while he’s been practising his art for years.
3. There are no ads.
Okay, there are three full page ads RIGHT AT THE BACK OF EACH BOOK. But none at all anywhere beforehand. If you read Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk etc.) or DC (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Arrow, etc.), you’re probably used to ads every few pages.
And each issue, even the extra-sized pilot-episode issue #1, cost me the same as any of those.
I keep wondering whether I’m ripping someone somewhere off somehow. Do Image Comics and Top Cow subsidise Death Vigil through sales of their bigger titles? Is it because this is going to be an eight-issue mini-series as opposed to a once-a-month-in-perpetuity ongoing title?
Anyway, that brings be back to my original statement. I want to explain it a bit further.
So why “only?”
I’ve been on and off comics for years.
I think of myself as a reader instead of a collector. Even back in the day I stuck to a few titles per month because I thought they were cool (Iron Man, Azrael, Ghost Rider 2099, Transformers (Dreamwave and IDW), assorted others).
Yet after I gave up comics in the move to Cairns, I didn’t miss them much. The main reason I even got back into Iron Man a couple of years ago was because I didn’t want to leave empty handed after being the first guy who walked through the door on KerSplatt’s opening day.
I still have a lot of those back issues tucked away, but I’m thinking of putting them up on the various “things for free in Cairns” Facebook groups. Not because I actively dislike them or am embarassed to own them, but because I don’t give a shit about them any more.
I have better things to do than to make space in our house for things I just don’t care for.
Hell, when I was thinking of re-subscribing to Iron Man after they announced the upcoming “Superior” storyline, I changed my mind after having a strong gut reaction against the thought of keeping those issues on my shelf.
Death Vigil, though? If you haven’t got the idea yet, yes, I’m very happy to have those issues, to make space for them.
I’d happily take them off my shelf and thrust them into the hands of anyone who seems like they could potentially be curious and say, “Here, read these!”
Death Vigil Links