Pullbox Reviews: Blake Undying #1 – Full of Gallows Humor… & fully funded on Kickstarter in under an hour!

Blake Carson is having a bad day. His bank account is drained, his career is going nowhere, and his ex-girlfriend won’t return his calls. Also, he can’t die. So at least there’s that. Reborn for 2020, BLAKE UNDYING #1 “Failure” begins a Post-Modern Age Superhero story with a darkly humorous twist. Subverting superheroic tropes that we’ve all come to know and love, BLAKE UNDYING will reexamine them through a brand new lens.

In a world full of troubles, Blake Carson has a plate full of ‘em. His job is a dead end, spirit crushing slog from which there’s no relief. He still has a torch for ex-girlfriend Cassie, but she wants nothing to do with him. Every day is a grind, wearing away at his resolve until he comes to a definitive conclusion. To his continuing dismay & growing disgust, Blake is denied even that final option as death proves to be just a momentary thing for him. Gunshot, asphyxiation, overdose, even beheading (what, seriously?)… no matter how graphic or brutal the suicide attempt, he’s dead for a bit but it just doesn’t seem to stick. Blake’s repeated efforts have served to prove that not only is he more or less immortal (so far), but also with each crack at it he’s getting harder to kill even temporarily.

Without a doubt, Blake Undying is a title that’s going to have its share of criticism. It’s a hot button topic that will bother some, offend others, and create outrage aplenty among those of a more sensitive nature. I will warn you all right now, if there is even a hint of a trigger for you in the subject of suicide, move along. Shoot me an email or hit me up on Twitter, and I will happily direct you to any number of comics featuring much lighter subject matter.

It could be that my harsher critics (aka: my wife) are right and I have no soul, but I personally thought Jason Cook’s dry, macabre sense of humor was hilarious. The brutal truth is that the only way to make a comic like Blake Undying even remotely palatable is by liberal use of gallows humor. Much like me with my favorite hot sauce, Cook “puts that s**t on everything.” There’s something about Blake Carson’s attitude toward everything and everyone around him that makes the story work. There aren’t any real laugh out loud moments… strike that, there’s one that almost made me spit coffee all over my iPad… but it’s more about the understated moments of humor, the pauses in between panels as Blake takes in and reacts to the painfully mundane concerns of the world around him.

Fully on board with the tone & attitude of this comic, Ezequiel Rubio is putting up some very good work. Rubio’s style in illustration is understated, without a lot of wasted effort. That creative energy is saved up, stockpiled for where it really counts to keep the focus on the major points rather than try to cram every page or panel with flash. Whether it’s in the visual gut punch of a shotgun blast to the face, or a close up on one of Blake’s rare emotional reactions, Rubio handles the rollercoaster ride with clever skill. Jovanna Plata’s work picks up fairly late in the issue, according to creator/writer Jason Cook, but she’ll be taking on the full coloring duties for issues 2 & 3. As a whole the visual style of Blake Undying is a united front of harsh reality, made up of deep shadows and glaring highlights.

I’m not totally clear on how much work Nikki Sherman was called on for the book’s lettering. The dialogue is laid out in a way that’s pretty straight forward and easy to follow. The sound effects were spot on, giving me an almost audible mental cue when Blake makes a pit stop at the local convenient store for beer. Where I’m a little less certain is whether or not Sherman had anything to do with the gratuitous amounts of background text  found throughout the book (graffiti, advertisements, even a medical poster in Blake’s doctor’s office), or if that was more of Rubio’s work. However it played out, it’s impressive in its level of detail and there are plenty of pats on the back earned all the way around. Maybe even a cookie or two.

Blake Undying is not going to appeal to everyone, either in its heavy subject matter or its bland attitude toward self-harm. There’s going to be controversy, so go into this book with some self-awareness. That said, all of the potentially triggering themes are approached in a way that leaves no doubt… this is dark comedy at its best. If that appeals to you at all, you can read this issue for free at www.BlakeUndying.com. When you find yourself sucked into the story, be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming Kickstarter campaigns, going live on October 19th (just a couple days as of the writing of this review) as this title is looking to be fully crowd-funded.

Final Score: 10/13

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