Review: DCeased hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


Tom Taylor's DCeased is wonderful and terrible (in the zombie apocalypse visted on the DC Universe and the wrenching sacrifices the heroes must make) and also terrible (in a variety of odd continuity choices and mischaracterizations that otherwise distract from the tale). Despite or perhaps because of its hangups, DCeased is prime summer blockbuster fare (though with the collection, of course, arriving in the wintertime). I'm game for Taylor's villain-focused follow-up to this book, but that's not exactly a sequel; I'd be interested to see Taylor return to chronicle what happens after this book's final pages.

[Review contains spoilers, and also for Doomsday Clock #12]

Over the course of DCeased's blood-soaked pages (jumping straight to the end) Taylor manages to kill the entirety of the Big 7 Justice League (including both Martian Manhunter and Cyborg). The leaves out on the space arks a new League generation: Superboy Jon Kent, Batman Damian Wayne, Wonder Girl Cassie Sandsmark, Kid Flash Wallace West, plus mentors "Aquaman" in the form of Mera and new Green Lantern Dinah "Black Canary" Lance. That's a fantastically "Young Justice"-esque lineup that I'd have been happy to read about in any continuity, not to mention that for those who mourn the in-continuity potential for Jon and Damian to have grown up together, here it is. I do hope that Taylor's DCeased: The Unkillables continues to after Superman turns out the sun and the arks take off, but moreover, what I'd really like is a DCeased sequel starring these characters, inevitably facing the Anti-Life virus again either on their space arks Alien-style or on their new Earth 2.

That said, while I'm under no illusions that a zombie-apocalypse DCU tale should or would take place in the main continuity (it'd be hard to behead Cyborg that way), I don't think it's unusual to at least want to imagine "this is where 'real life'" took a left turn. That point might be roundabouts Brian Michael Bendis' Man of Steel miniseries (incompatibly, because Superman's super-trunks and Jon Kent shouldn't coexist, but close enough is close enough), were it not also for the presence of Ma and Pa Kent.

If anything, DCeased is a good read for after Doomsday Clock #12, because then at least Jon and the Kents together makes sense (if we retroactively resurrect them for Man of Steel and beyond). DCeased #6 was published in the four-month wait between Doomsday Clock #11 and #12, both themselves considerably delayed, so one possibility is maybe the Kents' return was supposed to be established by then, but another is that Taylor is simply building his own continuity whole cloth, including or excluding characters as he sees fit (Wonder Woman able to access Themyscira, for instance, and the sudden arrival of the Bendis-era Young Justice Wonder Girl).

But the incongruous appearances of characters like Anissa "Thunder" Pierce, Red Tornado, and Power Girl (and yet, for all the concern about Kryptonian zombies in this book, no Supergirl) shouldn't necessarily sink DCeased; indeed, between Earth 2 and Injustice, Taylor's star has rather recently risen on such "anything goes" approaches. More problematic for me (and, I think, characteristic of Taylor's writing) is what seems like an unfamiliarity with the characters he's writing — that we first find Jon and Damian playing video games (would Damian really play video games?), letting alone that artist Trevor Hairsine draws the two as older than normal and as the same size. That's about the loosest one can portray Jon and Damian, and one wonders where editor Ben Abernathy was in this.

These kinds of difficulties abound, but they're particularly apparent in the included DCeased: A Good Day to Die one-shot. Taylor has not just Booster Gold, but also Mr. Miracle Scott Free calling Blue Beetle "Teddy," which I can't recall was ever his nickname (even from Booster). Zatanna talks backward even outside of spellcasting, which is not how Zatanna works. And Laura Braga's art stumbles in a couple of places, including when a Captain Boomerang zombie simply relaxes in a panel, when Big Barda worries about "too many" zombies in a panel where she's only shown to be fighting one, and a poor rendition of what seems to be Dr. Fate's Injustice costume.

At the same time, Good Day to Die (and DCeased as a whole) is hilarious when it's not terrifying and heartbreaking, and it's easy to forgive any writer who brings Waverider into a DCU zombie tale and pairs him with John Constantine, no less. So whereas I do think Taylor could tighten things around the edges, this book remains tons of fun on a lot of levels. Among other things, the Kent-Lane family remains central throughout, and from Pa Kent's turning to Lois's reporting, Superman saying good-bye to the final confrontation between father and son, Taylor writes a great Superman and company. Again, for those who mourn the DCU proper Jon Kent's lost childhood — and especially that we never got to see him spend it with Ma and Pa Kent — DCeased in some part offers the DCU road some might wish had been taken, Anti-Life virus notwithstanding.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase DCeased

DCeased is imperfect, but for an "Elseworlds" event, it doesn't necessarily have to be. It is popcorn fun, for what it is. What's unfortunate is one gets the sense that those behind the book didn't put in more effort than that, when clearly a line-wide batch of variant covers plus action figures suggests Tom Taylor and company have tapped into something deeper here. I expect DCeased books will be around for a while to come and I'm excited for them; hopefully, again, the little details will sharpen with age.

[Includes original and variant covers, series pitch]

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4 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 2 )

  1. With respect to Damian playing video games, in Nightwing #29, during the Metal event, as Damian, Nightwing, Green Arrow, etc enter the rings surrounding Gotham, GA mentions to Damian that the closer they get into the center, the less technology works. GA tells Damian, "I hope you saved your high scores." Damian replies, "*TT* Of course I did."

    I didn't think of Damian as a gamer, either, but maybe he does!

  2. And as far as Damian goes, i think if there's an opportunity to "prove" how superior he is, he'll take it. I don't know that enjoying himself is ever really the point, except when he's not paying attention or has let his guard down. And that's doesn't happen around just anyway. Jon isn't part of that circle.


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