Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Damned
(volume one) Written by Cullen Bunn, Drawn by Brian Hurtt; published by Oni Press

When first i heard about this comic, i wasn't interested. It mixes supernatural horror with pulpy, 1930s crime fiction. These kinds of "cross genre" concepts usually don't work for me, b/c i find the whole "look at these genres crossing!" aspect too distracting. The story usually suffers as a result, too, b/c so much energy goes into mixing and meshing that there's not much room for anything else.

However, such is not the case with The Damned (subtitled "Three Days Dead"). Yes, elements from disparate genres are sewn together here, but the seams are invisible.

Our protagonist is Eddie, and he's dead. He gets better after a few pages. Some time ago, he was cursed with a weird sort of immortality. He can be killed, but when someone touches his corpse, their life-force is removed and Eddie's is restored. Eddie's wounds are transferred to the new victim--i.e., if Eddie had been bludgeoned to death, the lug who touched his corpse will suddenly have all the bludgeoning wounds.

The world is essentially the darker side of gangster pulp, with one important difference: demons walk the Earth, and they run the gangs. If you're a Buffy fan, you can imagine this might be what a town infested with demons could be like without any Slayers, Watchers or other White Hats. I don't remember it ever being stated, but it feels like this all takes place in (an alternate) Chicago. That's where gangster stories belong.

Anyway, the two gangs that run things had been talking peace. A negotiator was brought in to work the deal. The negotiator was nabbed by an unkown party. The boss of the Aligheri gang brings Eddie back (after being three days dead from a slit throat) to find out what happened to the negotiator before the Roarke gang finds out that he's missing. Now, of course there are snitches and duplicitous characters playing all sides against the middle, and these are lowlifes with which Eddie must consort to do his job. And there's a third gang, diminished in power yet still dangerous, called the Verlochin, who happen to be the gang who cursed Eddie.

One of the things i like about crime pulps is how several players, working toward their own ends, try to outsmart and outmanuver each other, with our protagonist struggling against all sides to get to the truth. That's here in The Damned, and it's done well.

This book ain't for the squeamish. There are plenty of grody images, from demi-demon corpses to "the Worm", a former human cursed into a particularly creepy monstrous form. There were scenes that made me cringe, but with horror, is that criticism or praise? Oh, and tons of violence, and no shortage of cuss words.

The very end was iffy for me (i think it's meant as a possible seed for another volume), but overall i enjoyed "Three Days Dead".

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