Dia De Los Muertos
Written by Alex Link, Christopher E. Long and Dirk Manning
Artwork by Riley Rossmo and Jean-Paul Csuka
Colors by Nick Johnson, Riley Rossmo and Megan Wilson
Published by Image Comics
Anthology comics are a hard thing to make work, mostly because in order to work, the writer has to make self-contained stories of just a few pages feel satisfying from a narrative standpoint, which in comics is up there with untangling Hawkman’s character history.
Some writers can pull it off, and some can’t, almost inevitably you’ll get a mix of the two in any anthology, and “Dia De Los Mueurtos”, a new anthology miniseries from Image and creator/artist Riley Rossmo, is no exception to this.
The stories all take place on the Mexican holiday the book is named for, a much more culturally significant, less commercialized and diabetes-inducing equivalent of Halloween, in which the dead are said to walk the streets. You’d -think- that given the intense cultural significance of the setting, Image would have used the opportunity to hire more actually Mexican writers and artists, but that’s a whole other thing all together.
The first issue has three stories, and the editors were gracious enough to pick the weakest one, “Dead, But Dreaming” as the first. The story of a young woman who can travel to the “dead lands”, mostly to ride a motorcycle she stole form Ghost Rider around and do nothing especially interesting. The real saving grace of the story is the art, which as in the other two stories, is terrific.
But unfortunately it has the most “incomplete” feeling narrative of the three, ending on a very “Oh, that’s the ending? Well…ok” note. The main character also doesn’t have much in the way of character beyond spending the majority of the story in her underwear and having lots of tattoos and piercings. But that’s the same thing as character, right? Right?
By contrast, the middle story, “Reflections” is a massive step up. It has a very EC Horror Comics vibe to it, telling the story of a young spiritual investigator who makes a house call on a small family with ghost troubles, but finds things aren’t what they seem, because they never are, are they? Of the three, “Reflections” has the clearest beginning, middle and ending, and feels like a satisfying, if brief little yarn. It also manages to one-up the previous tale in terms of characterization. There isn’t much room for anything elaborate, but at least the characters feel like characters and not robots for delivering over-wrought narration.
The artwork in this story is also the best of the bunch, playing around with simple color compositions. The art here feels the most distinctive and interesting of the three, again evoking EC by way of Creepshow with a heavy focus on colors.
Closing out the book is “Te Vas Ángel Mío”, which suffers from similar problems to “Dead, But Dreaming” but not to the same degree. This time around the protagonist is a singer who encounters mysterious woman who may or may not be his dead lover. But really, look at the title, look at the previous stories and you can probably figure out if she is or not.
This story also has that “Oh, that’s the ending” problem, but overall feels more fleshed out than “Dead, But Dreaming”, thanks mainly to more “characterful” characters.
Overall, “Dia De Los Muertos” suffers from the same problems most anthology comics have, specifically inconsistent quality levels and some of the stories feeling a tad stunted. The art is more consistent, however, with each story being well drawn if not overly-well written, though there are still standouts.