Dead Legends #1
Ryan Ferrier (letterer), James Maddox (writer), Gavin Smith (artist)
A Wave Blue World
October 9, 2019
Descending a long staircase buried deep in a lush forest, competitors bring their medallions to the registration table, marking their names to become part of the Dead Legends fighting tournament. Winners become legends. Losers become, well, dead legends.
The combatants in the Dead Legends tournament come from many walks of life, but the first person we meet is Red Death—or is it? The real Red Death shows up shortly thereafter and, through movie-style flashbacks and her brash defiance at the registration table, we quickly learn just who the real Red Death is and what she’s capable of. Everyone ought to be running in fear, but you don’t climb those stairs if a bit of blood and guts is going to turn your stomach.
First and foremost, this is a book for fans of fighting movies, especially legendary kung fu masterpieces like Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. Such fans will appreciate the homages to those films, as well as the elaborately detailed fight sequences depicting deadly moves and the dire consequences to both giver and receiver. It’s not easy to make the still medium of comics feel like it’s moving, but artist Gavin Smith works magic with the action, making every panel featuring fighting feel like it’s in motion.
I’m not personally invested in fighting movies, despite my brother–who named his first born after Bruce Lee’s first born–having a significant influence on my life, but I can appreciate the concept based on my time spent with Mortal Kombat and other fighting video games. The idea of an exclusive tournament and players who enter, as guided by their varied vendettas, appeals to me because of my gaming roots.
The other woman is a widow intent on avenging her husband’s murder. There are a few other players that we meet briefly. Whether or not they will play a bigger role as the tournament progresses, or if they will become fodder, is left to be seen. But for now, the two Red Deaths and their backstories shape what’s to come. Will they be the enemies they are intended to be? Or will they find common ground beyond a name?
Not being familiar with the genre is not a setback when reading this issue. James Maddox’s writing spells out the details of the tournament clearly and the major players are well-defined. The action is as overly dramatic as the movies it pays homage to. The major draw for me is that, like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, the two leads are women. We don’t often get to see women leading action roles in movies, and though this is a comic, it’s good to see these unapologetically deadly women ready to draw blood to serve whatever purpose suits them.
Despite the violence and the dark premise, Dead Legends isn’t without a sense of humour. It slyly hits a few comedic beats amidst the blood and gore. If this isn’t a genre you’re used to, but you’re a fan of action and take-no-shit female leads, Dead Legends could be the perfect entry point.