Issue #6 of Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree’s The Damned saw Eddie kill himself, so he could go into the afterlife to find his dead mother. Watching over his dead body is his brother, Morgan. Morgan is watching over Eddie’s corpse, because a bunch of gangster demons want Eddie. Eddie is cursed – or gifted, depending on your point of view, for when anyone touches his dead body, that person dies and Eddie comes back to life. 1920s gangsters, demons, curses, and the afterlife.
The Damned is a blast.
The Damned is also bittersweet, as we saw from the first story arc. Eddie is not a great guy, but he tries really hard, and a setback only seems to push him harder. Issue #7 shoots for levity and mystery in a big way, as the two parallel storylines unfold. A throwaway bit in the real world turns into one of the biggest action set pieces in the book. The bit gets so out of hand that I found myself laughing with disbelief. I don’t laugh out loud at comic books often. In the afterlife, Eddie finds that he’s in over his head. I imagine anyone going into the afterlife would quickly realize that.
For all of the death and sadness, there is a vitality to this book that our creative team mines for solid gold. It might be that the era the comic is set in has naturally brought out of Bunn and Hurtt a sort of revelry – a charisma that springs off the pages and throttles you forward. My love for Bunn’s work is pretty obvious if you go through my reviews, but there’s something about The Damned that feels truly inspired. Bunn’s wordsmithing hits all of the right chords. There’s a musicality to the dialogue that rings true to the films of the era: screwball wittiness one second and hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett the next. I don’t know if Bunn can sing, but his words carry a tune.
I don’t know if this is the most fun Brian Hurtt has ever had illustrating and lettering a comic, but if it is, it shows. The action in this issue is so well mapped out for visceral appeal and huge laughs, every facial expression so well timed, every reaction so well drawn that it feels like Spielberg has made a darkly funny Indiana Jones. Crabtree gives us splashes of color in a grey-tinged world. Light shines brighter than it should, casting harsh shadows. It’s not black and white, but it might as well be. Crabtree captures the essence of the film noir gangster era, or at least the era in the way we remember best.