Please note: a review copy of the first issue of Death’s End was provided for the purposes of this article.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Death’s End from its cover alone. At first, the dark cover colours led me to believe that the comic might be the usual bland Horror thing that I often review, but upon opening it and reading the first few pages, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had been completely wrong in my estimations. Instead of being the “shocking” Horror I was worried I would have to slog through, Death’s End is actually a rather distinctively individual comic which blends high fantasy with mystery, suspense and horror to create a refreshingly unique narrative among some familiar fantasy tropes.
I want to keep this as a spoiler-free review, so I won’t say too much about the narrative, but I will say that the main catalyst for adventure revolves around a murder mystery, which gives us a chance to explore Death’s End’s high fantasy world through the eyes of its two crime solving protagonists. The first issue of the comic comes with a map that details the three “tiers” of the capital city of Eleas, and which draws us right into this new fantastical world from the get-go. The world is a mixture of medieval high fantasy tropes (blacksmiths, magic, creepy dudes in hooded robes) and also, stylistically, the characters wear costumes that feel like they come from the pages of a modern-day manga, and they use technology that you won’t find in, say, Conan. Oh, and I feel like its my duty to warn you that, at one point in the story, a bad thing happens to a dog. A bad thing.
The artwork of Death’s End is a mixture of clean, traditional American inks and colours, with some exaggerated facial expressions and gestures more reminiscent of manga or anime artwork. If, like me, you judged the book by its cover and were worried that you would have to squint your way through another black and white comic with tiny, illegible text, don’t worry, Death’s End is actually a pretty colourful book, considering its themes, and I didn’t have trouble reading any of the lettering. Whilst a lot of small press comics don’t tend to go for colour (as black and white/greyscale is often cheaper and saves on production time), I think that the first issue of Death’s End really benefits from its (mostly) warm colour scheme.
Overall, I would recommend Death’s End to anyone who is looking for a high fantasy comic that doesn’t feel completely like all the other high fantasy books out there. It’s an interesting blend of familiar tropes that seems to have a new story to tell, and I’m looking forward to seeing where that story goes in issue two and beyond.