Death, Cold As Steel (Panel Press)

dcasheader.jpgWe took a look at the first issue of this noir-flavored superhero book back in September. But how does the book hold up as a whole?

 

 

98 pgs. B&W; $9.99

(W: Bram Meeham A: Jamie Chase)

 

The year is 1946, just after the end of World War II, and we, as readers of Death, Cold As Steel, find ourselves in an all too familiar setting: a meta-human cleverly named Steel Soldier is found lying dead in a dark, rainy alley. It is up to our hero, the battle-broken veteran Aubrey Norris, to find out who did this to the supposedly indestructible national war hero and why. But before we get to that, first we are introduced to a bunch of characters who seem to play no role in the rest of the story. Then we watch Aubrey shuffle some papers around on his desk, which leads him to go out and get beat up by FBI agents for no real reason. The beating must inspire him in some way, however, because he suddenly pieces together who the murderer is and tracks him down.

 

Click thumbnail for a larger image.Bram Meehan’s story has two problems. It’s very unoriginal, and it’s as thin as a page in a graphic novel. The whole concept of the meta-humans being designed for World War II has been told all over the genre for decades. However, it seemed Meehan made no attempt to do anything new with this idea or be original with it in any sort of way, this story strongly resembling a very good book that came out a few years ago called Winter Men. Plus, the dead super hero in the alley has been seen a lot lately. It’s very similar to the first story arc in Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers. The story also lacks real depth. There is no real process or revelations in discovering who the killer is. Aubrey Norris just seems to figure it out.

 

I wish I could say that the book had fantastic art that made up for the lack of story, but despite filling the pages with noir-istic black and white images, but artist Jamie Chase does very little to fill in the gaps. Chase does not seem to have grasped the idea that his drawings needing to be fluid and progress from panel to panel, giving instead a series of still images placed side-by-side. There are a few panels that have a deeper, spooky, classic noir look, but most of the panels are loosely drawn with thin lines of ink.

 

Death, Cold As Steel is equivalent to a B-movie that you might catch on late night TV, though in that aspect this book can have some entertainment value. I had high hopes for this book going into it but over all, I was disappointed. The reason why independent graphic novels such as this often succeed is because they are filled with passion and originality. This book had neither of those qualities to make itself stand out. | Ryan Parker

To read a quite different take on Death, Cold As Steel, read James Nokes’ review of the series’ first issue. To read the book for yourself, visit the Panel Press ComicSpace page.

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