This review could be one mammoth run-on sentence because that is the tone “Dead Man’s Run” sets. The high concept is a jail break from hell, and Greg Pak makes short work of putting the elements into place with this first issue. It’s almost a little too rushed, but if you can hold a few things in your head you can keep up, and catch up, so as to enjoy yourself fully.
A jail break, from an actual jail and not an unknown afterlife dimension, kicks off this tale. Captain Frank Romero dies and asks for one of his employees to be sent to him. He wants Sam Tinker to be sent ‘down’ so he can help with effecting the jail break from the fiery realm. This all happens quickly, but we get the main details and then we go to hell. Tinker is set up as a man with a sister and a passion for maps. That’s all we know, but it feels like it’s all we need to know. His character gets fleshed out through his actions and reactions in the rest of the issue.
Hell is certainly portrayed as a strange place. Labyrinthine corridors and sharp toothed guards greet you, and then things get worse. The inmates are terrible company, the treatment is nearly universally unfair, and it seems that you go there after you die but you can still die again. Your soul can be murdered. This builds an element of gravity to the situation because there are consequences to the risks taken.
The Warden is a cold and attractive lady who hints at being more. Chained to the facility, she took the job because she believes in making a difference in it. She delivers a delicious speech about Hell only being home to those who deserve to be there. Their horrific treatment is justified as their eternal punishment. Hell is the ultimate place where justice is served because it is so often missed on earth. It’s a good point and makes you reconsider your prejudiced thoughts about Hell. If Pak can continue to inject real thought about the situation into the story then he can make it a winner.
Tony Parker is fresh off the “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” adaptation, and his work here is much of the same. Unfortunately, that work ranges from some cool moments to some terrible face work. Parker uses different angles and layouts to tell the story in an effective manner. His faults come in the actual images, especially when it comes to nuance or character portrayal. He can tell me who is in the panel, but he lacks the detail to make me care. These outlines speak and yet won’t act behind the words. It’s a shame but it should be overcome if this tale becomes the thrill-a-minute ride promised here and Parker keeps making great choices in other places.
“Dead Man’s Run” is a strangely fun comic. It’s easy to be swept up and away in the rushing narrative of a hellbound heist looking to change direction. What the book lacks in intricacy or depth it makes up for in sheer audacity. Pak wants to live up to the high concept of a jail break from Hell, and he’s assembled a sturdy foundation on which to pile up his levels of character and cool.