The Damned Vol. 1: Three Days Dead (Oni Press)

damnedheaderThe gangsters are demons whose racket is human souls in this cinematic noir thriller from St. Louisans Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt (Hard Time).

 

 

144 pgs. B&W; $14.95

(W: Cullen Bunn; A: Brian Hurtt)

 

The Damned is a particularly cinematic comic. That's because the tale of Prohibition-era mobster-demons takes its cues from old black-and-white tough-guy films. Various demons and mortals pull guns from hidden spaces, get thrown through windows, curse the "skirts" they can't resist and so on.

 

The tough guys are even tougher than usual, though, because they're a pack of demons and devils trading not only in illegal hooch, but in human souls. And when a demon called up from hell to broker a deal between two rival crime families goes missing, a gang war threatens to erupt.

 

Which brings us to Eddie, the Philip Marlowe of this decadent mystery. Eddie's "talent" is a curse that rips him violently back to the world of the living each time he's murdered, which seems to happen a lot. His immortality means that he's immune to threats of oblivion, and so can move freely among a terrifying cast of huge, horned mobsters with his queries about the missing mediator. (He also likes to crack wise, smoke cigarettes and shtup an old flame with big problems of her own.) He is rattled, however, each time he dies, whereupon he visits a hellish sort of purgatory. Between this confusing afterlife and the indignities of gangland, the man would be happy to close his eyes and sleep forever, but the demons have other plans.

 

Artist Brian Hurtt (who, like writer Cullen Bunn, makes his home in the St. Louis area) renders scenes with an eye for action and drama. He knows how to use shadows, smoke, pools of blood, an assortment of facial expressions, panel size and configuration, perspective, and so on to give the book that cinematic feel. His crisp, wry figures bring to mind those of MAD Magazine's versatile Mort Drucker. And Hurtt is obviously having a ball drawing demons of all sizes and perversions.

 

Writer Bunn keeps us wondering how the mystery will come out with a complex plot, albeit a bit clichéd at points. That gangster jargon, along with a sustained mood of casual viciousness among monster-thugs, keeps the action breezy and the intrigue going. The mounting violence and body count is a pleasure for the horror fan, too. And the goat sacrifices are a cute little lagniappe.

 

The Damned is full-to-bursting with death, fistfights, murder, devils, black magic, and demonic possession. It's a prototypical "comic for guys who like comics." | Byron Kerman

 

See the related links below for our interview with The Damned creators Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt!

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