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Deadbeats # 64

01/02/2005. Contributed by Paul Skevington

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Edited, written and illustrated by Richard Howell. Inked by Ricardo Villagran. pub: Claypool Comics. 36 page standard comic. Price: $ 2.50 (US), $ 4.00 (CAN).

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Unlike my treatment of the other Claypool titles I will be examining, 'Elvira Mistress Of The Dark' and 'Soulsearchers', this review will concentrate on one particular issue of 'Deadbeats', in this case issue 64.

Reading these Claypool titles has been a bit of an unusual experience for me. I'm a big comics fan, but I'm attracted to works that are from a more literary tradition, where the text of the comic bares an equal responsibility for the success of the endeavour. Bury me in a coffin lined with 'The Sandman' and cushioned with Alan Moore books and I'll die in peace.

'Deadbeats' is markedly different to these titles. You will find no meaningful musings on the human condition within its pages. You will not have any personal revelations or spend hours wondering about the complexities of the plot. What you will do though, is have a hell of a lot of fun.

From the moment I glimpsed the lurid front cover, sporting a group of vampires dressed like extras from a Hammer film, I knew I was in familiar and comfortable territory. Indeed, the whole enterprise does have the distinct flavour of those venerable productions. It's as if the Saturday night spine-tingler has died and come back in paper form.

Issue 64 is written and illustrated by Richard Howell, who also edits the series. The issue's artwork adds to the retro feel with characters ranging from clean-cut teenagers to middle-aged women with their hair in buns, to bloodsuckers resembling reformed hippies. Despite their archetypal nature they are all very distinctively drawn. Howell is particularly adept at capturing emotion within the faces of his players, who outshine their less ably drawn environments, which often seem drab by comparison. To be fair, at least a small amount of this is due to the difficulties of using the black and white comics format.

The plot itself concerns a boy named Kirby Collier whose blood is fatal to vampires, which doesn't seem to me to be the most enviable of powers. He travels to an alternate dimension on a mission to save the world/s and arrives in an alternate version of his universe where all of his buddies are now nasty vampires in a world they rule and oversee. He discovers this after joining a cadre of humans who resist their tyranny, planning to destroy the vamps as they gather for the most important event in their calendar: a charity fund-raiser for failed reality TV stars.

Actually that last bit isn't true, they're actually trying to bring Dracula back to life, as in this world he is dead and not loving it. With his resurrection, the vampires will gain ultimate power and dominion over all the realms of man, mwa-hahahahahaha!

Excuse me I got a bit carried away there.

OK then. No big points for originality. The clichéd plot is improved by Howell's creative panel usage that keeps the pace of the issue flowing, exploding with energy in all the right places. Unlike some less competent efforts the action is always clearly defined and there are none of those uncomfortable moments when you find yourself looking at a panel whilst trying to determine whose elbow that is protruding from the bottom left hand corner. Thom Zahler does a good job with the lettering, approaching it pragmatically for the most part, he does manage to add a special touch to the more dramatic scenes. Ricardo Villagrans inking is clear and bold, befitting the tone of the book.

The whole thing is done with such energy that you will forgive 'Deadbeats' its little flaws and concentrate on enjoying it for what it is, a great little horror comic of a type not much seen in the present day. I would recommend 'Deadbeats' to anyone who fancies picking up a comic that will, more than anything else, thoroughly entertain. I sincerely hope that people will buy it, if only to support a book that undoubtedly will be remembered fondly by its readers when they go on to become SF/horror writers. It certainly won't be the last time I pick up a copy.

Paul Skevington

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