Before Death Vigil, I – shamefully – had no idea who Stjepan Sejic was. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever forget.
And I should probably preface this review by saying I am now, officially, a fan. And I intend, if at all it is humanly possible, to hunt down everything he’s created and read and read and read and read. Because if the quality of Death Vigil is anything to go by, this is a man possessed of terrifying talent.
Read Death Vigil – I wrote here that issue #1 is free right now – and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. This is a master’s work of storytelling and art. Once I got my hands on the first – and, presently, only – volume of the series, which collects the first 8 issues, I read the entire thing, all 260 pages of the digital comic, without so much as pausing to breathe.
This is, in my opinion, one of those few comics that manages to do everything right. Some do action-and-plot-twist-packed story really well, like Birthright. Some develop incredibly compelling characters, like John Flood. Others demand that you push the limits of your imagination, like Memetic or Cognetic. Others build these extraordinary fantastic worlds with reams of lore that immerse you in fascinating mythology, like Hexed. Death Vigil somehow manages to do all of these things at the same time.
The series involves Death and her squad of (I think they’re) undead warriors, gathered through the ages, who form the Death Vigil – and there is the sort of plot that you might actually expect from a book of this type, involving ancient godlike beings that want to conquer all, with the Death Vigil being the only thing that stands in their way.
If you were to rate the book on story alone, I imagine you would have a hard time distinguishing it from others of its kind. It isn’t a new story by any means; it is simply that the players are different. But it’s the players – the characters – that distinguish this book.
Drawn with exceptional skill and written with equal parts seriousness and humour, each springs off the page with a life that is rarely matched in other comics. From Death herself, to the different members of the Vigil, each of these characters are treated with great care without being taken seriously – to the extent that the ultimate conflict is treated like a boss fight in a raid, with a pair of gamers (one a member of the Vigil, the other a primordial monster in little girl form) assigning groups the roles of tank and DPS.
And, quite frankly, nothing in all of my many years of reading everything I can get my hands on quite prepared me for the sight of Viking zombies charging into battle howling “DPS, DPS, DPS”. For that one scene alone, I would tell people to give Death Vigil a try. It isn’t often that I stumble on something that is both new and engaging, but every time Sejic takes an established trope and spins it to his own purpose, he breathes new life into it and makes it thoroughly his own.
The less I say about the art, the better, because I lack the words to properly sum up Sejic’s skill with pen and brush. I will, however, say this one thing – I am someone who can read an entire comic without so much as looking at a single panel. Sometimes, I just read the words and forget that the rest of it is there. With Death Vigil, I found myself sometimes forgetting to read because I was so busy staring slack-jawed at the panels. Panels like this one:
So, to sum this up …
Death Vigil really is an amazing read. Breathtakingly fast, entertainingly written, extremely well-paced, and masterfully drawn. This is, far and away, one of the most enjoyable series I’ve read all year. It’s made me want to read and review more comics, in the hope of finding other books that match – or even exceed, who knows? – its brilliance. And I think you owe it to yourself to give it a read.