Comics Features

REVIEW: Dead Universe: Year One

Premiering on Free Comic Book Day tomorrow across the UK, Dead Universe: Year One is a manifesto of sheer awesomeness, a kaleidoscopic view into the eldritch beauty and stellar abominations that coexist under the Dead Universe Publications banner. Dead Universe: Year One may be debuting only in England on Free Comic Book Day, but that doesn’t mean that this Yank can’t tell you why you should appreciate it.

Dead Universe Publishing is a bit of a misnomer, as the publishing house is stacked with individuals loaded with piss, vinegar and Glade plug-ins. Each work bursts with life, alluding to grand worlds and concepts dragged into this world across endless seas of determination, will power and a middle finger to traditional comic norms.

Now that being said, Dead Universe: Year One, features two-page previews of various titles in its universe. I can’t necessarily go in-depth as to what happens in every story, as I’d essentially just be transcribing the comic, but what I can do is elaborate a bit on the emotional content of each work.


Sounds like a lot of gravitas for a mere comic review, but also understand that there’s a story about a time traveling alcoholic robot. Actually, that’s a good a place to start as any. The Gentleman by Andy W. Clift is about a cyclopean automaton that enjoys wine and travels through time. If the part of your brain that detects awesome wasn’t firing after reading that last sentence, then go tell your doctor you want the good pills because your ability to emote is broken.

I Want to Be a Dragon by Patrick Cline and Brett Uren is a tragic twist on a commonly held fantasy of awesome children everywhere, with a boy claiming to want to become a flying reptilian tank, not to breathe fire or fly through the clouds, but rather because “no one can hurt dragons.” It’s all hauntingly beautiful, with a sort of I Hunt Giants feel to it.

Demon Gate by William Axtell is a beautifully saccharine look at a world where the gates of hell have reopened on Earth, unleashing the hoodie and jeans wearing, battle-axe brandishing denizens of the Pit. Did you know demons wear polo shirts? ‘Cause I’m not surprised; however I’m quite curious where this title will go.

Similarly, Nowhereville: Stopover by Ken Conlow raises more questions than answers in its enigmatic two pages, giving us a glimpse into the life of a journalist and his android assistant, in addition to a chain-smoking nun. My god, I just described Transmetropolitan — I need to see where this story goes!

Speaking of sudden twists, Little Terrors by Jon Scrivens manages to throw your expectations through the ringer, starting off as a zombie story, only to suddenly throw wave elementals and weeble-wobble looking creatures at us, which, if the comic’s title is any indication, hides terror-iffic intentions.

Kaiju Steel by Steve Collier and Lee Killeen embodies the less-is-more feeling of the collection perfectly, throwing us into a desolate snow blind tundra that hides monsters worthy of leasing a flat with Godzilla in its depths. Just like the hidden ice caverns of wherever this story is taking place, there is much more going on in this world than what the eye can see.

The Vale by Brett Uren and F Harmon is a beautifully inked glimpse into the queuing of a zombie with bleeding eyes and a Cthulhu-like entity in a fitted hat queuing in proper British fashion. Amazing. (We’ll be taking a closer look at The Vale with an interview with Uren and a review of the first two issues over the weekend.)

There’s The Greys by Vincent Mealing and Mark Crutch, a delightfully fresh comic strip about the antics of the infamous grey skinned space invaders — perhaps a bit corny at times, but it’s earnest nature ultimately wins you over. Its companion strip however Monsters, Inked focuses instead on a house of Monster staples dealing with the, “wacky” hijinks of being a monster. I can’t express irony through the Internet perfectly, but let’s just say that I preferred The Greys.

Which leaves us with Apes N’ Capes by Grainne Mcentee and Matt Rooke, a title where my American-ness proved too powerful, as I had to reread Apes N’ Capes a few times just to truly absorb it all, by which I mean McEntee’s talking monkeys are uber British, as if a thick British accent were made even more British when parsed by a monkey. This is where half the fun is though, as you have to read it out loud just to get some idea of what these flawlessly inked simians are saying; notice for instance how vague I’m being about the plot? That’s how thick these accents are, and it’s brilliant. There is little question as to why Capes N’ Apes appears first in this collection, and last on this review, because what the work may lack in actual events happening, it more than compensates with its powerful black and white style and guttural hick-up 1337-speak colloquial jargon.

So there you have it, eight lively glimpses into the ironically named Dead Universe publishing house. You’ll find yourself wanting much more of every story told, so consider Year One a sampler plate in the proverbial TGIF of comic book Valhalla –if you had full portions of everything, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate each and every title fully. So, if you want a thorough compendium into a dimension where everything is badass, there is no better option than Dead Universe: Year One, available at Orbital Comics (London), Chaos City Comics (St. Albane), and Meanwhile Across Town (Watford) this Free Comic Book Day.

About the author

Chris Davidson


    • Many thanks Mr. Mcentee, coming from a nad-sat simian-slang painter of words I’ll take it to heart.