DCEASED #3, from writer Tom Taylor, with Trevor Hairsine as penciler, Stefano Gaudiano as inker, colors by Rain Beredo, and letters from Saida Temofonte continues the excellent infection horror that has been unraveling in the last two issues. Published by DC Comics, DCEASED has been a roller coaster ride of death, destruction, and heartache.
Last issue, Taylor killed Hal Jordan and Batman. While Hal’s death was a bummer, it had levity since Black Canary was chosen as the next Lantern. On the other hand, issue two ended with Batman desperately trying to cure the virus or at least find out what it is, all while reducing it’s spread using the suit of one of the most tragic villains, Mr. Freeze. But the inevitable happened, Damian had to hear his father die, and Alfred had to kill his Batman, his son.
This issue picks up with that sledgehammer still solidly lodged in your heart as we see Alfred solemnly over his batchildren, mourning them, but also feeling guilty of being unable to protect them. Taylor has captured the father figure that Alfred is in two issues and has delivered blows to the heart with each one. I like Batman, but I don’t love Batman. That said, I have teared up more for him, Alfred, and Damien in this one issue than I have in reading any of his other emotional arcs.
The emotion in death is delivered through the narrator’s bleak words, retelling the tragedy, and through the art from Hairsine, Gaudiano, and Beredo. The solemn and minimalist expression on Afred’s face as he stands over the bodies of his boys, with the words “We didn’t have time. We didn’t have time to process. Too many died too quickly. We didn’t have time to grieve,” expertly builds emotional weight while utilizing an understanding of how to build tension.
Beyond that, the bodies of heroes and villains keep dropping and rising as crazed anti-living beings. While not every death of a hero is given weight like Batman’s, the interactions between the living and those affected by the anti-life virus are well crafted. Specifically these include Harley Quinn’s interactions with a team of heroes and of course the looming stand against the Joker, which we were hinted at last issue when we were shown his scratched face.
Just as the issue opens, it closes. Taking the strongest among heroes and emotionally gutting him on the page. There is a true art that goes into writing and showing the decisions made in post-apocalyptic settings – especially when the people you know and love are now your enemies. Taylor demonstrates this knowledge of the infection subgenre as he narrates the devolving situation and the need to forget that the threats were once the ones we hold close.
This is a trope that can either feel repetitive when it has been done before, or it can craft an emotional bond between you and the character. Given that we are just as attached to the characters on the page as they are to each other, it helps Taylor’s narration of the situation hit and hit hard. This is especially true for Superman’s scenes in DCEASED #3. These is even more power when this idea of forgetting that the enemies were once human is attributed to heroes, those who we never want to feel that way.
We want our heroes to maintain their humanity by seeing it in others, by respecting it, even when they are someone like the Joker. Now, Taylor has put them in a situation where they have to cut that line of empathy and move through the ocean of raging bodies with precision, caution, and ruthlessness in order to survive. They have to dissociate, and that hurts to see our heroes do all on its own.
In addition to beautiful and devastating writing, the art succeeds where most gore-based horror comics and even movies fail. There is more blood this issue than we’ve seen the past two. That being said, it never feels muddied or gratuitous. Beredo’s red is vibrant without being neon and has depth without turning into a sea of copper. It adds power to the scenes instead of being added just for shock. To put it simply DCEASED #3 gets hyperviolence right.
With issue number three down, DCEASED remains one of my favorite comics out right now. It is horrific, it is beautiful, and it is devastating. DCEASED #3 is a story that moves beyond shock and awe and focuses on breaking your heart.
DCEASED #3 is available wherever comics are sold now.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.