Personal Genre: Dead Man Holiday

Posted by on February 13th, 2010 at 6:15 AM

Rob reviews the first three issues of Colin Panetta’s moody sci-fi/horror series DEAD MAN HOLIDAY.

DEAD MAN HOLIDAY seems to be the result of an artist with a very catholic set of reading influences.  There’s more than a little early Vertigo-style horror at play in his comics, with echoes of HELLBLAZER in particular.   At the same time, there’s a Dan Clowes-like stillness and distance to be found in the characterizations.  That dichotomy plays out in the art, which mixes a grey and murky moodiness with rubbery and even playful character design.  The sense of dread that pervades this comic is balanced by a sort of absurdity that plays out as a sort of workplace comedy.

Of course, the workplace in question is a part of a city in the future that’s underwater and dangerous.  The worker, Thad Planck, is an everyman who’s stuck in a job that he hates but keeps out of momentum (if nothing else).  He patrols the streets of “Little Atlantis”, looking for things and people that shouldn’t be there.  He encounters a terrifyingly-rendered ghost skeleton that freaks him out to an enormous degree, as it becomes evident that Thad’s story is only a small part of a greater narrative.  Panetta cleverly decided to fill the reader in as little as possible as to what’s “really” happening, how the world got that way, etc.  This sequence of three books (starting at -3 and ending at -1, and read in that order) is about how Thad starts off in one place and winds up in a very different place at the end.

What I liked about this journey is that things happen to the character that he doesn’t quite understand and that he doesn’t learn from, and then it’s over.  There’s a particular woman he thinks he might have a connection to (who appears in his dreams), but a connection is never made.  His nightmares indicate that something horrible was about to happen to him (and the world at large, perhaps), but his ultimate fate is a bit different than prophesized.  Along the way, he encounters creatures made of mud who have a sort of Kirbyesque design, he answers to a Stan Lee-like boss and has a luchadore as a co-worker.

The greyness of the story helps play down the weirdness and adds a sense of melancholy to the proceedings.  The liveliness of Panetta’s line helps prevent the comic from being too murky, even if some of his earlier pages come off as over-rendered.  The mix of action and quotidian detail is at the heart of what Panetta refers to as a “personal genre story”: one involving genre tropes like post-apocalyptic settings, sci-fi gadgets and horror but that’s more than a collection of well-worn story concepts.  Indeed, the genre aspects of the story are part window dressing and part springboard for character exploration.  I’ll be interested to see how Panetta continues the series and if he still wraps genre concerns with darkly absurd Kafkaesque character paths.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.