Snarky Titles for Serious Stories are Hard (We Only Find Them When They’re Dead: A Retrospective of Book 1)
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead: Book 1
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Simone Di Meo
with Color Assists by Mariasara Miotti
Lettered by AndWorld Designs
The setting and story so far:
We Only Find Them When They’re Dead is set in a future a few hundred years ahead of ours, the latter half of the twenty-fourth century, wherein corporations and a heavily militarized government control the allocation of resources and cruelly punish any resistance. The galaxy is running dangerously low on various resources but has started scavenging the corpses of immense, moon-sized humanoids found floating in the reaches of space through specialized vessels called autopsy ships. Our story primarily follows the four-person crew of one such autopsy ship, the Vihaan 2 with the primary point of view for the story being Georges Malik, the embittered and obsessive son of a former autopsy ship crew. Unsatisfied with these so-called gods only being found dead, Georges has set out on an illegal and secret quest to find a living god, something which most of his crew is only reluctantly following along with for their own reasons while dealing with the fallout between Georges and a government agent named Paula Richter.
I loved this title. I am a relative newcomer to comic books, without any experience with the talent involved in this, but this story kept me riveted and scouring every page (quick shoutout to digital copies and being able to zoom in without a magnifying glass). The art is crisp and clean with very thin linework and striking color palettes that give the series a sense of physical depth and magnificence, and as I said in my review of the first issue, the gods’ designs are very reminiscent of Marvel Comics’ Celestials, created by Jack Kirby in 1976. The characters are all visually distinct from each other with every face dripping with readable emotion. Harsh lines and streaks of grey suggest age and even the posture of different characters is used to convey their intentions and personality. The story is fast-paced and interesting with twists set up and revealed pleasingly without feeling like a fakeout on the part of the authors, which is an art form in itself, and I continue to be enthused to see what happens next with these characters. It’s also pleasing to see a science fiction universe with some decent diversity, both in the sense of people of color and sexuality. Georges and one of the crew members are in a partnership that is at least
sexual, though it seems as if Georges tries to maintain a sort of distance from nearly everyone due to his traumatic past.
All of that being said, I do have some criticisms, most of the story and characterizations, so I’ll need to venture into spoilers somewhat, but I’ll try to keep them light. The characterization is good with most of the characters, but there’s one character who gets almost no attention in the story at all and coincidentally happens to be the first one that dies when Richter catches up to the group. Her death scene is magnificent, and she does get some good focus immediately before it to help establish her connection to Georges and Richter, but I still would have liked a bit more time with her before then to really help sell the death. I also would have liked to have seen more of Georges’ family and more of the backstory for the rest of the crew, perhaps to explain how they came to be in Georges’ employ and why they continue to follow him. These points are fairly minor overall, however, and don’t detract from the rest of the story. The cliffhanger the fifth issue ends on has certainly opened the door to any number of stories for the next volume and has left me polishing the edge of my seat until the next book is released.
- The art is sharp and unique with effective use of space, perspective, and color lending depth and magnificence to everything.
- The characters are distinct from each other and convey personality well through art and dialogue.
- The story is paced well and seems to have been written with an acute awareness of the number of issues it was allotted.
- The nostalgic design choices are welcome and don’t override anything new in the story, which can be something of a balancing act.
- Grief and the various forms it can take are incredibly relatable story elements, morbid though it can be to acknowledge that.
- The world-building and backstories of characters could all use some attention.
- This does feel like a personal journey through grief and obsession, so anyone seeking a light-hearted adventure story may be put off by the serious and too-relevant issues of a militarized government meeting out harsh punishments and corporate control of resources.
Summary This incredibly personal story brings catharsis dressed up in science fiction with just a touch of nostalgia for classic comic books. Come for the gorgeous art, stay for the journey through grief.