Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Trevor Hairsine, Andy Lanning, Neil Edwards, Lucas Meyer
Color Artist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Review by Steve J. Ray
With the release of DCeased: War Of The Undead Gods, Tom Taylor’s epic super-zombie saga reaches its ultimate conclusion.
This final chapter has pleased me greatly, even though I truly thought that the story had ended with DCeased: Dead Planet. Tom Taylor’s clearly been hiding a couple of cards up his sleeve. Where’s Supergirl been, in this reality? What happened on New Genesis and Apokolips, after Darkseid unleashed the undead techno-plague that is the anti-life equation?
The answers come thick and fast, and they will all shock and surprise you.
Of course, the DCeased stories haven’t always been purely all about blood, violence, death, gore, doom, and gloom (though those are some very prominent, favorite components of each installment). Every different chapter has also brought hope, joy, and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. The end of Dead Planet saw the return of some heroes that everyone thought were impossible to save; this volume does the same again… and then some. From the very first chapter, hope is back, alive, and well in the biggest way possible.
The DCeased saga has married superheroics and horror beautifully, and with War Of The Undead Gods, has also finally brought the cosmic side of the DC Multiverse into these realms flawlessly.
Where the original DCeased, Unkillables, Hope At World’s End, and Dead Planet showed readers the devastation that the Anti-Life Equation caused on Earth, seeing the ramifications of the disease on a universal level is thrilling. Korugar, Green Lanterns, Para-Demons, and deities fill these pages, making them an absolute joy to read.
The way that Tom Taylor has adapted the tragedy of COVID-19 and its effects on families all over the world, and reflected them using heroes, villains, gods, and monsters is really cool and very clever. His research and creativity are also extremely impressive. What we get is modern mythology that, particularly with this book, even starts to tie in with real-world mythology. Fans of Greek history and legends should find the final pages of chapter three spine-chilling! (Anyone unfamiliar with what we see depicted can get answers from a simple web search).
As always, the art in this book is every bit as great as the script. I’ve been a Trevor Hairsine fan since before he even started working for DC, so seeing him return to conclude the saga he started with Tom Taylor has made me very happy indeed. His pencils have an edge and grit to them that I just love, and when inked by stellar talents like Andy Lanning (another gentleman I’ve been a fan of for decades) and colored by DCeased mainstay, Rain Beredo, the art just sings (or possibly, screams).
The art team of Hairsine, Edwards, Lanning, Meyer, and Beredo have created (inter)stellar work. Their depiction of Mxyzptlk is the scariest I’ve seen since Alan Moore’s now legendary “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow” (Superman #423 and Action Comics #583, 1986). The ending to chapter five raised the stakes higher than even I ever imagined possible!
We get to see Mxyzptlk going toe-to-toe against one of DC Comics’ heaviest hitters as the chapter ends, an occurrence cataclysmic enough that even heaven and hell could fall to the anti-life equation. These are the highest stakes I’ve seen in a comic outside of the company-wide Crisis crossovers.
Saida Temofonte’s letters complete the book, as her work has also given this entire sage a very distinct look and feel. Her sound effect designs have always been some of my absolute favorites.
I will always love comics. No movie or TV show will ever have the budget to give fans the images that these incredibly talented writers and artists do. Few actors can convey, with one look, the depth of emotion and pain that this creative team gives us, on every single page.
Even with all the death, viscera, and carnage, this creative team is having a whale of a time, and it shows in every line of dialogue, scratch of the pencil, swirl of ink, dash of color, and burst of onomatopoeia. What DCeased clearly demonstrates is a genuine understanding of, and love for, everything about comics.
Fans of Jon Kent’s Man of Steel, Damian Wayne as Batman, and Cassie Sandsmark’s all-new Wonder Woman won’t be disappointed. Plus, Green Canary is one of the most inspired characters that the DCeased saga has spawned.
In this book alone we see Alfred Pennyworth grow in ways hitherto undreamt of. We also get Brainiac, Darkseid, Lobo, Kandor, and its citizens used in ways that we’ve never seen before. Tom Taylor’s knowledge of and love for the characters of the DC Multiverse have allowed him to shock and inspire us more than just about any other writer out there.
While this is a story that’s been designed to scare us and make us think; it’s also one about love, life, loss, and family. What makes comic characters great isn’t colorful costumes and flashy powers, it’s the sense of community, camaraderie, and caring they share. These are unreal characters that have been made to feel very real indeed.
Upping the ante to a cosmic scale, while making the premise larger and more all-encompassing, hasn’t taken away from the sense of claustrophobia and shortness of breath that only the best horror stories can deliver.
I said in my reviews for the original DCeased series that killing off Batman in the very first issue was a stroke of genius because, if he’d survived, he probably would’ve worked things out and saved the day. So, having a cosmic saga that didn’t include DC Comics’ greatest tactical mind raised the stakes in brand new ways.
Yes, this is an alternate universe, but every single hero we read about on these pages is a perfect reflection of the ones whose adventures we’ve read and loved for decades. Having a universe where no one’s safe, where characters who would never be allowed to die permanently in their own books, and still be expected to sell comics in 80 years’ time, meeting their demise adds to their eternal appeal. In the pages of DCeased no one’s safe, and even the greatest heroes can die.
Letting characters, who are to all intents and purposes immortal, meet their final ends has been this saga’s greatest strength. When heroes sacrifice themselves to save others, we truly see just how great and noble they truly are.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I loved this book. Sometimes cosmic-level events are all style over substance, but this creative team is made up of comics masters, so we still get all the grandeur and gravitas, but never at the cost of character development or good storytelling. This isn’t just action for action’s sake.
The fact that we’re seeing characters we’ve loved forever suffer in new and horrible ways, yet still act like the heroes we only wish we could be, is truly inspiring. I have no doubt that this trilogy in five parts (Douglas Adams would be proud) will become one of the greatest and most loved, DC stories of all time.
This collected edition not only contains all eight issues of DCeased: War Of The Undead Gods, it also features the original individual main and primary variant covers at the beginning of each chapter, as well as a 26-page rare variant cover gallery at the back of the book. If that doesn’t stir your emotions and make you want to buy the book, then you’re dead inside… sorry.
Review Copy Courtesy of Penguin Random House. Images courtesy of DC Entertainment