According to the forward in this graphic novel, Raine Szramski has been working on the concept of the Dead City for several years now. I’m a fan of original ideas that have started out as seeds planted in the imagination, and have slowly developed over time. That speaks volumes to me of how passionate the creator was about telling their story, shaping its final form over the decades until they deemed it ready to publish.
With this first volume of Heaven and the Dead City from CO2 Comics, we’re introduced to two cities; one dead and decaying, the other vibrant and alive. Palus witnessed the city of Tac fall to demonic creatures when he was younger, and to many the city has remained dead ever since. Several years later and Palus is a priest in the flourishing city of Zivvon, but is conflicted of the church’s teaching when it comes to the subject of magic. There’s ‘magic,’ and then there’s ‘majick,’ and Palus being born a witch believes and practices the latter. The church believes ‘magic’ to be more heaven based, and ‘majick’ more earth based, with ‘magic’ being the correct choice of study and worship. This displeases Palus, and after several years being a part of the priesthood, he decides it is time to return to his roots in the Dead City of Tac.
Meanwhile the Dead City isn’t as dead as it’s believed to be, with survivors on the outer edge of Zivvon making supply runs into the city for anything of possible use to them. The most skilled supply runner is a woman named Yaira with her horse Oryx and pet ferret Virgil, and as we follow her routine search throughout the ruins for supplies do we realize why the Dead City is still deserted, for the demonic monsters still roam for prey amidst the cover of the eerie fog. These are the same monsters that destroyed Tac twenty years ago, and why they’re still somewhat bound to this city is an ongoing mystery.
Another mystery that arises by the end of this first volume is why Palus is suddenly very interested in Yaira and her journeys into the city, and why Palus has returned in the first place. Is he going to try and restore the city with his majicks while banishing the creatures that roam freely, or does he possibly see Yaira as some sort of threat, and she might stumble upon some long forgotten secret?
The first volume does a great job setting up this magical world, and gives the reader a good idea of what to expect in future volumes. While fantasy comics can sometimes feel like a carbon copy of one another, there’s something about Heaven and the Dead City that intrigues me to keep reading, for the only other magic-based comic I can somewhat relate it to is Hellblazer, but even that comparison is a stretch. Szramski has indeed taken time laying the foundation and rules of this world, opening it up to exploration in future volumes.
While the story is intriguing, what really hooked me was Szramski’s artwork. A beautiful blend of Dave Johnson and Simon Bisley, the ruins of the city Tac are extremely detailed and by far some of the strongest artwork in the entire graphic novel. Every intricate crack in a building, every shifted stone in the eroding street captivated me, and had me wanting more. When we’re finally introduced to the terrors in the decaying city, they’re as fierce and wicked as we first imagined them to be and wonderfully illustrated from head to tail. With Heaven and the Dead City, you’ll want to come for the story and stay for the beautifully executed black and white artwork.
A delightful read for all ages, CO2 Comics definitely have an all-ages hit on their hands here.