Review: ’12 Reasons To Die’ #1

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A triumph of high concept storytelling and raw imagery, Black Mask Studios’ 12 Reasons To Die #1 comes highly recommended. Based on the first issue alone, Ghostface Killah’s first foray into comics shouldn’t be missed and the result is pretty excellent. “12 Reasons To Die” definitely deserves to be on your pick-up list this week.

WRITTEN BY: Ghostface Killah, Adrian Younge, Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, Ce Garcia
ART BY: Kyle Strahm, Breno Tamura, Gus Storms, Joe Infurnari
PUBLISHER: Black Mask Studios
PRICE: $3.50
RELEASE: May 8th, 2013

In the first tale, “The Lead Years” follows the bloody trail of some brutal mobsters as they ruthlessly rise through their ranks of power. Because these mobsters have gotten away with so much crime, they feel almost unstoppable. But when they cross paths with an even deadlier gangster, all Hell will break loose. In the second tale, a drunk driver ends up crashing his car into a farm. With his car totaled, the semi-sober driver has to run for his life from the flesh-eating farm animals. In the third tale, “The Dead Years, ” a record hunter has been hired by a wealthy businessman to retrieve a specific item. He has to find a lost record that kills people once they hear the Devil’s music.

In “The Lead Years,” Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon focus on the back-story of the antagonists. A group of mobsters have profited from their many years of prostitution, bribery, and death. In a nod to giallo/slasher movies, they don’t realize the Grim Reaper is coming after them in the form of a vengeful gangster. This is a hard-broiled crime tale about old-school mafia vs. new school mafia. In an interesting metaphor, the younger generation feels that the world is changing and it’s their time now to make their mark.

My personal favorite, “The Dead Years,” is a creative mix of noir and horror. Instead of a private detective, Rosenberg and Kindlon now bring us a record hunter to investigate the case. The record hunter dives headfirst into the unforgiving world of rich society and forgotten music. Characters who appear briefly from the first chapter have bigger roles in this tale. With the premise perfectly set-up, I can’t wait to see how record hunter continues with the supernatural mystery.

In “The Lead Years,” artist Breno Tamura doesn’t hold back on the violence as bullets start flying at a nightclub. A head pops like a pimple after taking in a shotgun blast. The mob-slaying gangster takes out one of his enemies by driving a stake though his neck. Tamura enhances the facial expressions with close-ups of people dying in extreme agony.

In “The Dead Years,” artist Gus Storms establishes the noirish aspects of the narrative in the opening pages. During an auction, the record hunter stands out from the rich crowd because of his wardrobe. In his character design, the record hunter is wearing a faded white T-shirt and worn-out jeans. Based on their facial reactions, readers can tell the wealthy class doesn’t want to deal with him because of his social status and race.

A near-perfect pairing of crime and horror, “12 Reasons To Die” #1 pieces its story together with such bloody images. To see what Ghostface Killah and his crew have in store for readers, I’m definitely keeping an eye out for “12 Reasons To Die” series.

4/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – Jorge Solis