As Eric Stephenson knows, books like Saga, Fatale and The Manhattan Projects will find their audience, whilst others, Jay Faerber’s Near Death for example, will mystify and confound. Ed Brubaker, Robert Kirkman, Brian K. Vaughan and I (indulge me) are fans and with volume 1 being priced at $9.99 you’d expect to be flying off the shelves, particularly given the success of other genre titles like Thief of Thieves, but it isn’t. As Stephenson said “it’s doing okay, but not what it could be doing or should be doing, for that matter”. I agree, Near Death is good comics.
Near Death volume 2 collets #6-11 and is written by Faerber, with art by Simone Guglielmini and covers by Francesco Francavilla. You often read issue X is a great jumping on point, well, this is. Markham is a professional killer but after a botched mission and near death experience, which offers him a glimpse of the Hell that awaits him on death, he decides to atone for past sins by saving a life for every one he has taken.
The volume opens with Markham taking his first case in his new town – protecting the outgoing Los Angeles District Attorney, whose many enemies are coming after him now that he no longer has police protection. He then proceeds to aid a teen in gang extraction, becomes embroiled in a blood feud that has lasted for generations, before reliving events leading up to his near death experience – trapped between who he was and who he is, without a moral compass to guide him.
The issues may be ‘done in one’ but the stand-alone stories are amongst the best I’ve read. It achieves in 22 pages what others fail to convey in entire arcs – it is a lesson in storytelling.
The artwork, by Guglielmini, is noir-esque, grimy. It has all the trappings of classic TV dramas – high speed chases, the double cross, gun fights, a great lead that you can’t help but root for. There’s a real grit – reminiscent of Brubaker and Sean Philips’ early collaborations. I can’t wait to see their next project.
Personally I’d have optioned this, rather than Thief of Thieves, for TV. And cast Jason Statham.
I was disappointed to read the series is on hiatus following the release of issue 11, as this was a good read. I’d enjoyed Faerber’s Noble Causes and was therefore disappointed that this title passed me by, I shan’t make the same mistake in the future.
Near Death Volume 2 TPB goes on sale September 26th.