If you’re an avid comic reader and you’ve been looking for a book with more crime and a little less noir, than this is your kind of story. Near Death #5 continues the adventures of Markham, the former contract killer who is attempting to save his soul by saving people instead of killing them. In this issue the repercussions of his past catch up with him and put someone close to him in danger at the cost of his mistakes. It’s all the excitement, action, and thrills in a one-hour TV drama but presented gloriously on the printed page.
The writing by Jay Faerber feels completely authentic. Not once during the issue did I feel as if the dialogue was forced, clichÃ©, or didn’t fit the story. Often crime comics try to exaggerate the way the characters speak in order to make the sound more noir or detective-like, but Faerber just lets the characters breathe and use the words a real person would use in an underworld situation. This same attention to detail in plot and pacing keeps the pages turning and the tension up the entire issue.
The artwork by Simone Guglielmini has the perfect mixture of that drawn and painted look to give it a sense of gritty and washed out tones that really match the mood of the story. The character’s appearances are understated in design and color, but it makes it feel more realistic than an overdone criminal’s wardrobe. The settings are just as powerful as the characters, including Guglielmini’s scenes that really show off atmosphere, like the church scene or the scene in the warehouse.
One of the best things about this series is that it’s designed for new readers. Every issue is a standalone story, and even though this was the first I’ve ever read, it was clear from the beginning what the premise was and what was motivating the characters. This is a rare spectacle in mainstream comics nowadays, considering most publishers are more concerned with events and story arcs rather than one-and-done stories.
I give this series a strong recommendation for fans of true crime, TV dramas, and action adventure stories. I think that more titles would benefit from taking the old school approach of leaving the story open for new readers to jump on at any issue in the series. I can tell you for sure that this one has me hooked.