Death Be Damned
Revenge punctuates the Western: whether it’s land or love, there’s always something to fight over and someone to avenge. Fitting, then, that Death Be Damned opens on a hot rush of blood, as Miranda Coler wakes up one day to find her family murdered. Without any explanation, our only anchor is Miranda’s steely promise of vengeance.
This fixation on the flesh is brought to life by Hannah Christenson’s earthy art style. There is nothing delicate or wispy about Death Be Damned; faces drip from the page like candle wax and landscapes look as rough as hemp. In a supernatural twist, every time Miranda dies she is brought back to life, and the transition between life and death is signified when colourist Juan Useche’s palette of burnt orange and brown blots into icy blue.
Visual flourishes aside, it’s refreshing to see a woman take charge in a traditionally masculine narrative. In tales of the Old West, women are usually one of three things: damsels, dead or wives who stay at home while their men become heroes. Miranda takes on this mythic role, storming across the comic like a phantom of steel and bone in a ruffled dress.
The book is scintillating, but at times it fails to connect. With no real window into who Miranda is, it’s difficult to care for her or sympathise with her plight. The plot also feels slippery, shifting between classic Western territory and zombie horror with no real focus. This creates a tangled story, but it’s still a bold foundation for future issues. Kimberley Margaux
A down-to-earth woman will experience the unearthly.