The Horror Honeys: Guest Comics Honey ~ Death Vigil #1-8

Guest Comics Honey ~ Death Vigil #1-8

A Guest Comics Honey Review by Allison

Death Vigil #1-8
Writer & Artist: Stjepan Sejic
Top Cow Productions
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Art: 4/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Overall: 4.5 Eldritch demons out of 5!

In DEATH VIGIL, VOL. 1, those who are “gifted” are encouraged to join the Death Vigil in their ongoing war against the ever-growing power of the Primordial Enemy. The only catch is that you have to die first. When loner Clara Jenkins becomes a corporeal immortal Death Knight, she obtains reality-altering weaponry in the never-ending battle between good and evil and becomes part of a makeshift family of fellow Death Knights. But a League of Necromancers has aligned themselves with a world-devouring enemy seeks to destroy the Vigil above all else...

The first volume of the collected series was released in July, but the first arc only ended recently. I've been reading this series since day one, and it was originally supposed to be a mini-series, but the ending leaves a number of threads open for a sequel. 

Other than the occasional awkwardly-phrased sentence, the writing in Death Vigil is filled with warmth and humor. The complex mythology and history of the characters require a lot of exposition dumps, but Sejic is good at peppering jokes throughout these explanations to make them more engaging. The Vigil is a small army led by the grim reaper (a cheerful woman named Bernadette) who protect the world from necromancers, humans who bind themselves to eldritch demons (aka "the Primordial Enemy"). The Enemy's human servants have plans to bring through a bigger demon than ever before, and it's up to the Vigil to stop them.

Throw in grudges, secrets, and betrayals in on both sides of the war - some new, some centuries old - and the series could start to feel over-crowded. But Sejic is good about keeping the story moving, whether through jokes or action sequences, and he's always sure to make time for those character beats. The story could have been rushed through in 6 issues, but the story is enriched by the time taken to broaden its scope and to establish the character relationships.

Despite an interesting concept, the characters are this series' best asset. Sejic has created a handful of individuals with complementary skills and (sometimes) contradictory personalities. They each have special weapons called "veilrippers" that allow them to fight the necromancers and their demons, and they play a dual purpose: creative action sequences, and a glimpse into the characters' lives. Clara's quill is a less overtly-aggressive weapon, so she often uses it to create portals more than fight necromancers. Sam's axe and shovel are tied to a treasured memory of his father. 
Bernie, the reaper, will no doubt remind fans of Gaiman's Death of the Endless, but Bernie is more vulnerable than Death was. She can still be hurt or killed, and she feels it every time one of her team members dies. Plus, she can be petty and hold a grudge - she's basically human. She's one of a number of interesting and complex women in this series, and I appreciate the number of female monsters in this series. Most notable is Mia, who was bonded to an extraordinarily strong demon to save her life. Most of the time she seems like any other sarcastic pre-teen. When you see her in battle... Well, I won't go into detail, but it's really something, and she's a perfect example of Sejic's excellent demon designs.

I could go on, and talk about what an adorable doofus Sam is, or how nice it is to watch Clara gain confidence over the course of the series (especially since she's much more than she seems), but the cast is huge, and they (mostly at least) really care about each other. A bunch of weirdos and misfits coming together as a makeshift family...that's basically my Kryptonite. 

The digital line work gets a bit sketchy sometimes, but it works for a series where most of the characters are riding the line between life and death. Sejic's style leans toward realism, but his figures are incredibly expressive (which I find highly endearing). The monster designs are fantastic , although occasionally muddled - sometimes their many tentacles or limbs get obscured if they're all the same colour. Still, in close-up they look great, and you can always see enough to be impressed. Think Lovecraft meets Pacific Rim.

Sejic's page layouts have a fantastic sense of pacing - he really knows when to pull back and use most of the page to make a moment land. Whether the characters are having a casual conversation or they're fighting monsters, the layouts keep the book engaging. The changing colours of the gutters reflect the mood of the page, particularly when they turn red.

Some will definitely find the oddly-shaped tails on the speech balloons distracting, but it's never bothered me much. I like the care put into differentiating the lettering/balloons for different beings, particularly for characters like Mia, who switch based on their current form.

This book is a ton of fun. The characters are engaging, the monsters are cool, and the mythology is unique enough that exposition doesn't make you want to roll your eyes. I was immersed in the world from the first issue, and I found that I really, really cared what happened to these characters. Even the villains are sympathetic (well, most of them). I also just love monsters, and this book is filled with them! If you're looking to fill a Scooby Gang-shaped hole in your heart, this might be the comic for you.



Allison is a writer, comics editor, and dog enthusiast based in Toronto.  You can find her on Twitter.