Cemetery Beach is a short comic series published by Image Comics that is written by Warren Ellis with art by Jason Howard, and lettering by Fonografiks.
The story opens in an interrogation cell. Our protagonist, Michael Blackburn, has been captured and is being questioned. We quickly learn that his occupation is that of a pathfinder, the initial scout sent ahead by an invading force to provide intelligence. It appears that he has been sent from Earth to the hidden planet colony. Before the interrogator can gather any more information, Blackburn has killed him and escaped. Moments later he finds another captive of the prison, a revolutionary named Grace Moody. Together, the two leave to reach Cemetery Beach where Blackburn’s escape transport is hidden.
In between stretches of action and violence we are further introduced to the leader of this colony. A corpulent man called President Barrow. When Barrow hears of Blackburn and Moody’s escape he begins to panic. If someone has been sent from Oldhome (the colonist’s name for earth) then invasion is imminent. He orders for the pair to be captured or, if that proves impossible, killed. From there the story takes several twists and turns. The reader learns more about who both of the protagonists are and the madness of this hidden colony.
I’m of two minds about Ellis’ script for this series. There are genuinely clever moments and the dialogue is snappy and fun to read. It’s difficult to not root for Blackburn and Moody. There are a few lines that even had me shaking with laughter. But my problem is that the story feels almost like it’s being told on billboards as the reader drives by. Most dialogue exists in service to the action scenes and much of the exposition is fit in that way as well. There’s an interesting story to be found here, but I wish that Ellis had taken a little more time to let it breathe.
As a result, it’s difficult to say that the story itself is compelling. There is a drive to see the characters reach their destination, but I didn’t find it particularly strong. However, I truly enjoyed the two protagonists. Blackburn’s sarcasm and irritation with the developing carnage bounce well off of Moody’s matter-of-fact delivery of insane information. Ellis’ wittiness is in full effect when these two are bantering, and it brings a lot of heart to the series.
The art by Howard is a treat. The linework is clean, but simultaneously has a quality to it that conveys the grittiness of the colony. Characters are expressive, the action is clear, and the violence is visceral. If you’re going to make the central focus of a comic series be the action, this art is definitely the kind you want to have. Though I would have liked to see a little more diversity in the color palette. But that’s a minor qualm and it doesn’t hinder what’s on the page. The lettering by Fonografiks is equally well done and serves to enhance what’s already on the page.
Overall I enjoyed Cemetery Beach. I just wish there was a little more meat to the story. One concession that I will make is that I think this series would have been more enjoyable in the individual issue format. Reading this as a graphic novel without the natural break-up that comes with a monthly release could definitely have contributed to many of my gripes with the story. But at the end of the day, that’s all they were. Gripes. If you’re a fan of high octane action akin to Mad Max: Fury Road, then Cemetery Beach is a perfect story for you.
Cemetery Beach Trade Paperback will be available in comic stores everywhere on June 5th, 2019
Rating: 3.5/5 Servings of seep, straight from the ground