When I first saw the cover of Deathbed #1, I was thrilled. Joshua Williamson is one of my favorite writers right now, and if you haven’t been reading his run on The Flash, you should be. Riley Rossmo, likewise, is an artist whose work I’ve always found enjoyable, particularly on the highly-underrated Constantine, The Hellblazer.
That thrill quickly gave rise to dread as I opened the book and we were given our first look at the book’s protagonist, Valentine Richards. I have a general rule of thumb about how any comic book which features an image of a woman sitting on the toilet in its first issue should probably be put down immediately. This sort of thing seems to be a trope in every independent comic for mature readers that is determined to prove how dangerous and edgy it is going to be. I don’t know why, but this image seems to come up with frightening regularity and only the reputation of the creators kept me going.
Thankfully, Deathbed quickly moves past this image and on to better things. It also, it should be noted, has nothing to do with the infamously cheesy 1977 horror movie about a bed that eats people.
Our focus lies on Valentine Richards – an aspiring novelist turned reporter turned biography ghost-writer, who is sick of telling other people’s stories instead of her own. Unfortunately, with her contract at her current reporting gig up, she’s forced to take a job writing the memoirs of Antonio Luna – a famous adventurer who she’s assured is like Doc Savage, James Bond and Teddy Roosevelt rolled into one. Yet somehow, she’s never heard of him.
(Click on the above image to see it full-size, in another window.)
Valentine arrives at Luna’s mansion on a dark and stormy night. Taken to the master bedroom, Valentine finds the 90 year old Luna at death’s door and apparently ready to tell the unlikely story of his life. However, Luna has another purpose in seeking out a writer to tell his tale – one that seems likely to give Valentine a story of her own to tell!
This first issue is largely concerned with setting up the series, so there’s not much in the way of action. This is surprising, given Joshua Williamson’s usual scripts are packed full of improbable action sequences but it is early yet. As far as laying the ground-work goes, this issue does a fantastic job of showing us everything we need to know about our characters without telling as much. This is because Williamson is one of an increasingly rare few writers who seem to trust their artist to be as much of a storyteller as them.
Case in point. There is a rather gorgeous two-page spread of Valentine walking past several portraits of Antonio Luna from his glory days. This tells us far more about who Antonio Luna is than any piece of expository dialogue ever could. Likewise, we learn far more about Valentine by the questions she asks and the internal monologue about the deeper meaning behind each question than we do by her conversation with her editor.
Bottom Line: If this first issue is any indication, Deathbed will be one heck of a read.
Deathbed #1 releases February 21, 2018.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.