Dead Man Holiday #-2

By | Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Leave a Comment
Last year, I reviewed Colin Panetta's first issue of Dead Man Holiday. He's recently released his second issue, and sent me a review copy.

If you'll recall, Thad (the protagonist) had a strange encounter last issue that scared the bejeezus out of him. In this issue, he returns to the location of said encounter and runs across more creatures like the first one, as well as some humanoid creature they're either worshiping or taking care of. He manages to overcome his fears, but is later accosted by some enigmatic Siamese twins. As he and Bethany fall asleep at their respective apartments, they seem to share a dream. A dream in which Thad is awoken from by security forces who've stormed his apartment after one of his neighbors complained of the screaming.

The quickest thing I can say about the book is that all the positive aspects I saw in the previous issue remain. Panetta's got good page and panel construction across the board, and it's easy to follow the action. It's even more impressive in this issue, in fact, since he goes through fully half of the book without using any dialogue at all, just a few sound effects.

I also particularly liked how he handled the dream sequence. Rather than any typical art tricks to highlight the unreal nature of the action, Panetta left his pencils remain underneath the inks, utilizing the medium in a way that simply can't be replicated in other forms. I've only seen a few artists present their comics with pencils still showing and they have either been unilateral style decisions (where the pencil marks show throughout the entire work) or are used to convey a more meta-textual meaning (alerting the reader to the presence of the artist him/herself). I won't go so far as to say Panetta's use of pencils here is wholly original, but it's certainly not very widely utilized. It works especially well here when he shifts from the dream sequence back to reality, and speaks well to his artistic capabilities.

Like the previous issue, I find myself thinking that all of the individual parts of this issue are well done, but I can't bring myself to call it successful just yet. Panetta is clearly working towards a larger story here, but readers gain little headway on seeing what that might be. It looks like it's leading somewhere, but I can't see what at this point. Which, as noted before, is part of Panetta's point.

And this is where decisions get complicated. It's beginning to strike me that the story would be better told as a graphic novel; one big chunk of a story where it's all told in one go. The individual issue approach seems to reveal too little about the overall structure in the 30-odd page installments. That said, though, I totally understand that, financially, it's immensely more feasible for Panetta to take the pamphlet approach. I also understand that it's creatively a lot easier to develop the story in smaller increments. So the question arises: do you serve the needs of the art or the artist? I don't know Panetta apart from a couple of notes specifically pertaining to Dead Man Holiday, so I can't make a judgment on his decision; all I can say is that I think the art would be better served in the graphic novel form as the story is now being told.

Having said that, however, I've seen enough of Panetta's work now to know that he A) takes criticism well and consciously reflects on it, and B) continues to work on improving his craft. The two of which suggest to me that, regardless of what he has planned on the horizon for this, he's willing/able to make changes to better serve the art. And considering that he's only now just released issue #-2, I'm fairly confident that he'll have something really attention-grabbing by the time he gets to #1.

You can download both issues #-3 and #-2, as well as order pulped wood copies of both (and they really do look much better printed), from the Dead Man Holiday website.
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