As a five-issue series, DCEASED #4, “Nuclear Option,” moves us closer to the end of the world of DCEASED; at least until Taylor’s announced DCeased: A Good Day to Die, a 48-page one-shot that will follow Mister Miracle and Big Barda during the spread of the anti-life virus. This issue, Taylor is joined by Trevor Hairsine serving as penciler, Stefano Gaudiano as inker, Rain Beredo as colorists, and Saida Temofonte as letterer. The last issue ended with a emotional sledgehammer as Superman was forced to kill his father. Now, having saved his mom, he rejoins the survivors of the story so far. His son John, Damian Wayne, Lois, Green Arrow, and a newly made Green Lantern in Dinah Lance.
There have been three issues of DCEASED, and in each one, writer Tom Taylor has killed heroes and villains of the DC Universe, twisting an emotional knife in the heart of readers with some and leaving us cheering with others. We’ve seen Alfred have to kill his son and line up the bodies of his Batchildren side by side. We’ve also seen Harley Quinn finally kill the Joker and rid herself of his abuse. As a horror comic, DCEASED has excelled, and as mini-series filled with almost all of the heavy hitting heroes of DC, Taylor has shown a mastery of understanding many DC characters by bringing impact with their deaths.
Now, the remaining group, having learned how the anti-life virus spread, work to connect to the rest of the world and to other survivors and heroes. As Taylor rips our heroes apart, he leaves just enough hope in the story so that when he pulls the rug out from under us, we fall harder than the last time.
Each issue of DCEASED has moved in three acts, using a cold open style with a seemingly detached introduction before bringing the reader to the main people we’ve been following. DCEASED #4 does the same, only this time, using Captain Atom, sets the stage for total annihilation.
We then move back to our core group of heroes before seeing how they all intersect in the end. Taylor’s writing is masterful. His narration is truly one of the strongest I’ve seen in any medium. “When you have a hammer everything looks like a nail,” is a grim reality that the world faces as the anti-life virus runs rampant.
The real strength of this issue lies in Taylor tackling the one problem in all of this: some heroes are too powerful to stop. Instead of crafting loopholes of “comic logic,” Taylor chooses to directly confront the largest threats to the world: infected heroes. What would happen if Superman was infected? Or the Flash? They’re too dangerous and honestly, their destructive power is too hard to write. Instead, Taylor explains how they each have remained clean while giving the survivors an even larger threat, a “Nuclear Option.”
While Taylor’s writing is without fault, the art of this issue is hit or miss. Hairsine and Gaudiano’s art works well in the gore department, but it falters when it comes to characters. Damian’s hair is a distracting oddity while Poison Ivy’s costume remains an eyesore.
That being said, the pair excels at illustrating a hole in the head and the other blood-soaked moments of the series, which ultimately means more to me than a couple of characters in the background. In addition, Beredo’s steady hand as colorist keeps DCEASED #4 from falling into a red-washed splatterpunk mess. He is able to strike a balance of blood in each panel, toeing the line of too much while keeping it toned down for the art to remain unobstructed.
With one issue left in the mini-series, I can not overstate how good this book is. While some have dismissed it as being Marvel Zombies, it is the furthest from it. While Marvel Zombies was focused on the absurdity and gore, Taylor’s focus in DCEASED is killing your favorites, but doing so with emotional weight.
Each kill and its consequence is crafted skillfully by an author who understands the different empathic connections we have to the heroes. Taylor exploits the emotional threads between us and our icons in the way horror should. Pick up DCEASED #4, you won’t regret it.
DCEASED #4 is available everywhere 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.