Friday, April 17, 2009

Dead Romeo #1

The latest in a string of vampire concepts to strike pop culture, Dead Romeo investigates the activities of nine freshly reincarnated blood-sucking monsters and their quest to… well, we don't really know that just yet. All that's certain is that it involves sharp teeth, grimy alleyways and gore... lots and lots of gore.

The book's author, Jesse Blaze Snider, delivers a cast of characters that's so bland and one-dimensional I can't help but wonder if he's doing it on purpose. We've got an actor-turned-vampire, a roided-out bodybuilder vampire, a gun wielding vampire, a rapist vampire… the list goes on, and if you expect any of them to have a touch of depth, personality or anything beyond a weak gimmick to separate them from their running buddies, you're being overly optimistic. This book has awful dialog, a weak underlying premise and an indecisive, painfully forced protagonist. Our hero spends a whopping three pages of quality time with the leading lady, consisting of a few terrible pick-up lines and a curt parting of ways, before she's thrown into harm's way and he must choose between her life and an eternity amidst hellfire and brimstone. Seriously, that's the long and the short of this entire issue. Is there only one woman in this city? The man returned from the dead, immediately found the nearest warm female body, (she was ASLEEP on a TOMBSTONE) made a genuinely rotten attempt at flirtation, and now he's contemplating eternal damnation to save her life? If this is the kind of substance I can expect from the rest of this mini-series, I think it can let me off right here, thanks.

The artwork, provided by journeyman Ryan Benjamin, can't seem to decide on an identity. On some pages he's mimicking Brandon Peterson, on others he looks to be offering up an homage to Pat Lee and Dreamwave Productions. I'm genuinely surprised a lot of these pages were credited to the same artist, their appearance is that radically different. Benjamin overloads this issue with two-page spreads, which comprise about three-quarters of the story, and delivers them with varying degrees of legibility. His action scenes are angled and directed so strangely, I still don't really have much of a clue about what actually happened. He takes the story's darker overtones just a step too far, bathing the page with so much black ink it's often completely illegible. Our introduction to the bulk of Dead Romeo's cast takes place in a bar so prohibitively dark, I couldn't put a single name to a face when they were suddenly thrown into a back-alley fight two pages later.

Benjamin's work never gets any better than it is on the cover, and that's a major disappointment. Casual readers might be misled by that truly gorgeous composition, which overflows with the kind of restraint, nuance and character that's missing from the issue's internals. Before that first page, Ryan looks like a talented, disciplined, striking new visual artist. After his first few internal layouts shatter that fa├žade, it's a long, slippery downward slope.

Not to mince words, but don't waste your time with Dead Romeo. It's recycled, rehashed and regurgitated material that's been done, better, a dozen times before. You can admire the book's greatest asset, its cover, right there on the shelf without even lifting a finger. Skip it.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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