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Lady Death #1 By Matt Martin
Crossgen Entertainment/Code 6 Ė Brian Pulido (w); Ivan Reis (p); Marc Campos (i)
For the second time in as many weeks, I must say that this book isnít nearly as bad as I had expected it to be.
Now, I know that there is a group of rabid Chaos! Comics fans out there. Apparently there arenít enough of them to keep the companyís ledgers in the black, but thatís neither here nor there (and a bit of a low blow, I admit). But I must say, I never found Chaosí books to be to my liking. Call me narrow-minded, but I think a lot of that had to do with my reluctance to be taken for any more of a geek than I already am, and reading a stack of books featuring grotesquely-endowed (and entirely anatomically impossible, I might add) women with names like Bad Kitty just didnít seem like the most logical way to accomplish that.
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But anyway, back to the matter at hand. Iím not going to comment on the rumors of impropriety on behalf of either Pulido or Crossgen in relation to this book. Because, frankly, a) I donít know the first thing about it and b) it has no impact on whether or not this is a good read (and some would add ďc) it has no place in a review, so stop talking about it, MattĒ). Nor can I accurately compare this relaunch to any past efforts with the character, due to my aforementioned complete lack of any knowledge of those efforts. Itís a unique position to be in, I think, to have basically no grounds on which to have a preconceived notion about the book, yet still expect to dislike it.
But I didnít.
Now, Iím not saying that Iím going to shout its glories from the rooftops, but this incarnation of Lady Death is remarkably different from what I expected it to be.
Lady Death is set in the fantasy village of Novgorod, in the early 1200s. Fearing the proliferation of the human race, the Eldritch, a magically-inclined humanoid race many centuries the senior of the humans, engages in what is known as the Wild Hunt, a practice of regularly raiding human villages and slaughtering the inhabitants for sport. However, the Eldritch lord, Tvarus, finds himself falling in love with a human maiden named Marion. During one night of the Hunt, as magically-drawn snow blankets the village, Tvarus and Marion consummate their love. Horrified to learn of the slaughter that had taken place whilst she dallied with the enemy, Marion flees Novgorod, leaving behind a Teutonic Knight named Wolfram Von Bach as the only survivor of the battle.
She returns eighteen years later with her daughter, Hope, a child conceived during her one night with Tvarus, only after the girlís insistence to see the home of her mother. Immediately, it becomes apparent that Hope has inherited some of more unsettling characteristics of her fatherís rather otherworldly ancestry. When facing a villager, the father of a boy killed during the Hunt the resulted in her conception, Hopeís eyes turn completely white. However, when viewed by anyone else, they appear completely normal. Hope and her mother take refuge in a local inn, where a bit of clunky, ham-fisted dialogue reveals Hopeís origin to her. The revelation is cut short, however, by the return of Henry, the villager to whom Hopeís eyes transformed, with a medieval-style angry mob in tow. Meanwhile, Hopeís paternal half continues to seek out the daughter he has never known, all the while oblivious to the fact that tragedy looms over her head.
Now, given that summary, Iím inclined to point out that this doesnít sound terribly different from a number of other Crossgen books. As far as genres are concerned, fantasy is something that the company is in no way short of, particularly fantasy involving female leads. But as it doesnít involve the sigil, itís technically not a Crossgen Universe book, I suppose; hence the Code 6 imprint. All the same, itís not likely that Lady Death is the book thatís going to give Crossgen its first breakout success, simply by virtue of the fact that itís terribly similar to a large portion of their company-owned books.
But hereís the funniest part: for all I know, this could be the exact same origin sequence that the Chaos! version of Lady Death had, only with smaller boobs. In which case, Chaos! should have taken that step years ago, because it does wonders for the impression that the book gives off.
In any event, Lady Death isnít a bad book. The dialogue comes off as a little forced on occasion and the plot isnít going to win any awards for originality, but itís a solid effort. More importantly, itís a visually tame effort, at least in comparison to past versions of the character. The art from Ivan Reis is very reminiscent, at least to me, of Bryan Hitch. Itís not as detailed, nor is it in Hitchís trademark widescreen style, but something about the way Reis draws faces reminds me a lot of Hitch and thatís no bad thing.
So, at the end of the day, you could certainly do a lot worse than to pick up Lady Death. Fans of the character are going to grab this book no matter what I say, but fantasy aficionados that might have been put off by the reputation of the license should give the book a chance. They might be surprised by it.