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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Death Vigil: The Grim Reaper Beckons


Enter a world of masterful full-color storytelling where second chances at life happen after death and the Grim Reaper isn't so grim.♦
Stjepan Sejic is a master of words and art, both talents equally on display in Death Vigil, a comic book series published by Top Cow Productions, Inc. The series follows a small group of characters who have died and been granted a second chance at life by the Grim Reaper (named Bernadette) herselfa chance that involves fighting Necromancers and the demons and hellspawn they command in a mission to protect Earth’s unsuspecting populace.
    Sejic’s distinctive style of art is likely what most people think of first with Death Vigil, particularly his idiosyncratic character design that helps readers clearly see and understand the emotions of main characters, rendering complex personalities with artistic clarity. The style shows influences from many modern popular comic series such as X-Men and Batman, yet it visually separates itself from these books by using colorful, bright pages and greater-than-typical detailing. The eye-popping use of color allows the characters and scenery to look clean, warm, and inviting, and allows readers to follow the brisk action in each panel without much fuss or confusion.
       However, the real beauty of Death Vigil is in its writing, which brilliantly creates characters such the Grim Reaper Bernadette. Through Sejic’s use of flashbacks, action, and dialogue we see that the typical view of the Grim Reaper as a stone cold, uncaring, and sinister figure is not true in the slightest—she is in fact one of the good guys of the series—while showing Bernadette as an emotionally complex and connected character who loves, hates, and feels like everyday people. Sejic reveals her humanity in flashbacks where she openly hurts and is saddened by the loss of members of the Death Vigil, and in another scene where she is dancing around while listening to music on an ipod. She even makes joking jabs at her underlings of the Death Vigil and shows somewhat of a romantic relationship with Sam, one of the newer members of the Vigil and an intriguing character in his own right. The series opens up with Sam’s death and induction into the Death Vigil, introducing just how the process works and why the Vigil exists, offering the reader a (dead) everyman to root for as he is ushered into this fantastic realm. Given these twists in story and character, the series feel like a fresh take on superhero comics, a genre it’s certainly playing off of, while also acting like a fantasy set in a modern world.
     Of course Death Vigil isn’t completely without its faults. Sejic uses the majority of the first five issues to explain what the Death Vigil is, fleshing out the story behind its various members and creating much of the world’s background and lore. This can be a daunting barrier for someone looking to immerse themselves in the series right off—a lot of information gets thrown around early, which can be confusing and overwhelming at times—yet the extended opening exposition is nearly unavoidable, as world-creation and familiarization with its rules are absolutely necessary. Overall, though, Death Vigil feels like it could be a big contender against more mainstream titles like X-Men, Avengers, or Batman. It's already gathered a large and loyal reader base excited to see where the series goes next.

Note: Interested readers can find out more about Death Vigil and other works by Stjepan Sejic at Top Cow's website and at Sejic’s personal online art gallery and blog, which includes free downloadable copies of Death Vigil’s first issue and Volume One of Sejic’s Ravine, a high fantasy 100+ page adventure.
  • About the Author
    Benjamin Byrd is a fourth year Creative Writing Major. An avid comic book reader and gamer Ben hopes to pursue storytelling in any possible medium as well as maintaining a healthy interest in music.

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