REVIEW: “Death Vigil #1” Welcome to Dark Fantasy 101

Written by: Stjepan Sejic

Art by: Stjepan Sejic

Publisher: Image Comics

$3.99

Considering how many science-fiction titles are being published right now, it’s curious that sci-fi’s sister genre, fantasy, isn’t more popular than a handful of titles. “Death Vigil #1” is a strong debut release for superstar creator Stjepan Sejic, who scripts and paints this comic about a never-ending battle between good and evil. While it has its problems, Sejic’s characters are easily likable and will be able to carry the book giving him the time needed to build a complex plot. The 40-page size doesn’t seem cumbersome thanks to Sejic’s detailed artwork and provides enough space to fully immerse the reader in the world.

Death Vigil doesn’t get many points for originality. It relies on more than a few fantasy clichés: a new recruit forced to battle a previously unknown enemy, a battle between good and evil as old as time itself, and an immemorial guardian there to save the day. Normally, the sum of these borrowed ideas results in a dull tale, but while “Death Vigil #1” remains formulaic, it manages to sneak up on you with surprisingly fun action scenes and engaging characters.

Sejic’s talent as an artist drives the issue forward with a focus on throwing us into the action. The kinetic battle sequences look great, devoid of distracting and messy elements that all too often plague fantasy titles. He is able to deliver a staggering amount of detail and expression to his characters which provides a solid backbone for the occasional piece of flimsy dialogue. The writing isn’t top-notch, but whenever it begins to slip into distracting campiness, a wicked monster explodes across the page and concerns melt away.

The painted art gives this comic a unique atmosphere and tone compared to the other titles released this week. At times the colour palette seemed to give off a darker vibe than the script suggested, but that’s a pretty minor aesthetic problem considering the quality of the art. There is nothing to worry about when it comes to the artistic fidelity of this series. Death Vigil shouldn’t have any problem competing with other comics in the visual department.

The characters in “Death Vigil #1” were far stronger than I expected. The plot doesn’t offer much that is superbly compelling, the easily empathetic and light-hearted characters should give Sejic the opportunity to provide some gray area to the plot. Too often fantasy comics rely on outright righteousness battling outright villainy. The influence of The Lord of the Rings on this genre is hard to break, but adopting the A Song of Ice and Fire approach would help this comic make these already compelling characters more complicated. I fear for this series if it doesn’t take this more balanced approach, because throwing characters into either the strictly so-called good or evil camps will make their stories too trivial and wreck the goodwill Sejic has won.

For readers that were on the fence when reading the series synopsis, I would recommend waiting on this one a little bit longer. Within a few months it should be clear to tell whether this is simply an outlet for Sejic’s phenomenal artistic talents or a legitimate fantasy epic that should be supported by readers. Death Vigil is a house of cards that can be built into a beautiful work of art or collapse in upon itself, and this debut makes either option a viable reality.

Verdict:

Its formulaic approach to dark fantasy makes me question whether “Death Vigil #1” has what it takes to cement a readership for this series going forward. Strong art is basically a guarantee with Sejic, so there is little concern about how this comic will hold up visually. The surprisingly effective characters may just have secured the future of this series and their winning personalities trump the occasionally weak dialogue. A solid debut from Sejic and Image’s Top Cow imprint even if it’s more like a double to the gap than a home run.

“Death Vigil #1” earns 7.6/10

REVIEW: "Death Vigil #1" Welcome to Dark Fantasy 101