Once upon a time, I spent a lot of my hard earned money on comics. I was still a student back in those days and with a job on the side I did my best to fund my geek hobbies as best as I could. During that time my favourite series were those with strong female leads and beautiful artwork. Due to this I became a huge fan of the publishers Image and TopCow whose titles and style I really liked. Some of my favourite series were Witchblade, Tomb Raider, Danger Girl, Fathom, Gen13 and many more.
Sadly due to comic stores closing and prices increasing I stopped collecting them and haven’t really been into them for quite some time. But recently thanks to recommendations and the power of internet searches I rekindled my old love and started to look around for new titles.
These days I prefer to collect the Trade Paperback (TPB’s) rather than the individual issues of comics. Not only are TPB’s easier to store, they often include nice little extras and are a bit more sturdy. Plus it keeps me from going berserk with collecting all the different covers that are often available for a single issue. The only drawback for me is that the TPB will take some time to be released and until that time I have to do my best to avoid being spoiled. Death Vigil caught my interest for many reason. One of them being that it is being written and drawn by Stjepan Sejic whose work I really admire. And the fact that it deals with reapers, necromancy and a nice exciting storyline, which are a few of my favourite things.
The series deals with a reaper that goes by the name of Bernadette and her merry band of Deathknights that form the Death Vigil. All of the members have a gift that enables them to fight necromancers who try to spread the influence of the primordials and bring ruin to the world as we know it.
The story takes of when one of the Death Vigil members, Sam, is witness to a necromancer killing his own girlfriend in an attempt to resurrect his father. Or so he thinks. Needless to say this does not go over well with Sam and a fight ensues where thing don’t exactly go as planned for either side.
In the end with help of Bernadette, Hugin ( a white raven) and a band of summoned vikings, the necromancer is defeated and his attempt at resurrection stopped. But sadly the girl in question, Clara Jenkins, doesn’t make it. But seeing something in Clara, Bernadette offers her the chance to join Sam and the others. With passing on being the only other option, Clara joins the Death Vigil.
From that point on more is told about what the group is about and what they are exactly fighting for. An ancient chaos is seeking to devour all that lives and they use necromancers to channel their power to make it happen. The death knights of the Vigil are the force that seek to stop them and make sure that the living can continue on their merry way without necromancers raining on their parade.
While Clara tries to find her place in the group you meet the other members of the Vigil who all have their own weapons and specialities. At the same time it is revealed that an old order called the Pale Court has resurfaced and they seem to be needing the weapons of vigil members for some dark purpose. But the Death Vigil has some allies of their own who can make the Pale Courts work a bit more difficult and who at the same time can shed some light about what is exactly going on.
One of my main gripes is when a comic is dragging plot-lines on and on and there seems to be no real resolution. This is not the case here, there is plenty of action, questions get resolved at a nice pace and characters are presented in such a way that you get a feel for them and that they come alive. I never had a feeling of “C’mon tell us already!”. The tempo of the story is good, although in certain scenes perhaps a bit rushed and you get a lot of new information at once. But overall not once did I have the feeling that I wanted the story to hurry up a bit and I loved how rich the world and story felt.
The interactions between the many characters are very well done and there is enough tension and humour to make it really work. During the story you get enough information to see characters actually come alive and as reader to start caring about them instead of having just some random names popping up here and there. Each important player in the book has its own powers and character which sets them apart from the others and makes you root for them. Here my only wish is that I would love to see more about the necromancers and their faction. There is a character called Gallows in the book and I really wished we knew more about him as he seem to be a major player and a potential key to some other interesting story-lines. And for some reason he did became a bit of a favourite of mine.
Another thing I liked was that the title did away with one of the most annoying story-lines in many comics. The “woe is me” storyline, where something happens to a (main) character and for 7+ issues you are stuck with a character that moans about injustice and the struggle to come to grips with the new harsh reality. Death Vigil more or less drop-kicks that out of the window and gives us a character that goes ” Stuff happened, it sucks. Now lets make the most of it and kick some serious ass”. So it leaves more room for the actual story to take place and get to know the rest of the cast.
It’s no secret that the artwork of the comic has a lot of fans, and for good reason. The style is solid and rich in body-language. At no point does it feels like the characters are “static” and merely posing, but there is a flow in the art with regards to poses and expression that really makes it come alive.
While the story is dark, the use of colours makes it bright enough to give a feel of dark, scary, dreadfulness without being too heavy or getting too “gothic”. The changes in colours also go very well with the change in scenery and situations.
The only thing I did notice is that in certain areas the drawings seemed a bit more rushed than in other parts. But I got this feeling very rarely and at no point did it take away from the story. If anything the artwork always remained a pleasure to look at.
All in all I have to say that I was happily surprised when I finally got the comic in my hands. I went in with no real expectations and came out being a fan of the series and hoping that the comic will continue. A nice paced story, with plenty of characters to love and a lot of interesting lore. Combine that with the gorgeous artwork and for this was a sure winner!
I do hope that in the series we will get to see more of this story’s world and the characters that have been introduced so far. I have heard things about a pre-quel with Sam and perhaps a continuation of the current time line. And all I can say to that is “Yes Please!”.
For more work and small sneaks at upcoming titles you can go to Stjepan Sejic’s Deviantart page.
Other work by him that I can really recommend are Ravine and if you don’t mind more adult content/ subjects there is Sunstone. He has also done work recently on Rat Queens, which I have in pre-order and hope to do a review of soon.
Also his wife Linda Luksic Sejic is an epic artist as well and writes one of my favourite comics called Blood Stain and she has a Deviantart page as well.
While many comics are available on the web these days, I urge people to buy the physical copies if they like it. Not only is it a token of respect to the author(s) but also an indication to the publishers that a title is loved. By doing this you support the creators and give the series a chance to continue getting new chapters and content.
The Trade Paperback of Death Vigil retails for $24,99 and I picked up mine up from Archonia for €22,47.