Refusing to quietly disappear, Dead Eyes #1 from Image Comics is re-branded and re-released on October 2.
Almost a year ago Gerry Duggan and John McCrea’s Dead Rabbit was released through Image Comics. But then a so-strange-it-has-to-be-true copyright claim halted production before the third issue hit the shelves. A New York restaurant took umbrage and there ended the story of a retired hold-up man before he had chance to return in glory.
However, just like their titular character, Duggan and McCrea were not going to be beaten, so with a little bit of touching up and a name change, Dead Rabbit returns, under the uncomfortable title Dead Eyes.
To be fair, if you bought Dead Rabbit last year there isn’t much in this ‘new’ number 1 that you haven’t already seen. The story and art are almost exactly the same with only a few minor tweaks to the script. In fact letterer, Joe Sabino, appears to have had the most work to do on this reissue; replacing each reference to Dead Rabbit with Dead Eyes.
However, if you are new to the story, then you are in for a treat.
An Eye For A Tale
Creating ‘real’ lives for superheroes and vigilantes is, by now, nothing new or surprising. When Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did it in Watchmen it felt like a breakthrough, a game changer but these days it’s almost expected. But with all great stories, it’s not what the story is but how it is told that makes it stand out and, with Dead Eyes, Duggan and McCrea are making a big splash in a small pond.
The comic tells the story of Martin, a retired hold-up man and hoodlum, who is living with his wheelchair bound wife. What little money he made when wearing the mask has long since disappeared despite what the news stories seem to think. As a result he lies to his wife and has secretly taken on a regular job just to save them from dept.
It isn’t long before his instincts warn him of a criminal act, one that he might be able to stop. Donning the mask one more time, Martin, aka Dead Eyes, risks everything in his uncontrollable urge to battle crime.
Duggan has a wicked sense of humour. There are some hilarious moments in this issue that contrast the comic book element of the story with realistic interpretations of life. The heart of the story is a man struggling to get on in a world he finds tedious and uninspired, something most people can relate to. There is a realism that you can’t escape from which in turn intensifies the violence of the vigilante scenes.
By the end of this first issue the reader has a clear understanding of the central characters, who they are, what they’ve done, and also the world in which they inhabit. The plot is packed with action and character, while laying the ground work for future issues.
The Art of Dead Eyes
McCrea uses heavy black inks with thick shadowing that creates a darkness to the pages. The panel borders are lost in the black gutters giving the impression that the darkness is creeping into the images. The overall effect is one of an imbalance within the visuals drawn from within the narrative. Even within the home scenes McCrea makes the reader uncomfortable, as if something is not right.
The composition and camera angles of the panels are dynamic. Each page has a sense of drama about it long before you start to read. And, just like the script, McCrea’s art often contains humour. Comical poses and exaggerated expressions provide contrasting tones to the violence and horror that Dead Eyes contains.
Some of this tone is brought about by Mike Spicer’s coloring. The bright, almost garish colours used for the moments of comedy is replaced with grim hues when Dead Eyes goes into battle. The distinction between the two is important for the narrative to hit the right beats as the comic progresses. The feel of the page, and the story elements contained within, have to be set by a quick glance so that the reader understands when Duggan is making a joke.
Dead Eyes is an uncompromising look at ‘what comes after’. It contrasts the difficulties of reality with the extremes of vigilante justice in an attempt to link the two experiences. It is forcing the point about the metaphors abound in superhero fiction; these aren’t just stories about people dressing up and fighting crime, there are deeper meanings and cultural or social parallels being drawn.
Duggan and co. want to entertain but they also want you to think about what you read in the pages of Dead Eyes and beyond. They touch on fake news, violence within society, and the lies we tell to make it through the day. The story of Dead Eyes is a serious drama told in an entertaining, often humorous, manner.
Unfortunately for the creators, Dead Eyes just doesn’t have the same ring to it as Dead Rabbit, but it is a small price to pay to get the comic into the readers hands.