Louis Falcetti writes;
12 Reasons To Die is a comic that boldly sits in a place of its own design, dangling bloody limbs into various pools of genre without committing fully to any of them. That’s a very good thing. Even though you can read an issue and write it off as a horror comic or a mafia comic, it won’t fit fully into either of those labels. I’m saying this because I don’t like tough guy stories. I enjoy a tough guy in a story, I get tears of joy watch Charlie Udder pulverize Mr. W on Deadwood and I get a warm feeling watching Tony Sopranos curb stomp the man who messed with Meadow. But straight up tough guys stories bore the shit out of me. It’s why I never got into Sons of Anarchy, I watched about 10 minutes of the pilot and turned it off thinking, “This is so silly. All of these actors playing at big tough guys. Who can take this seriously?” So I’m reading 12 Reasons to Die and Anthony Starks, our protagonist of sorts, the man who will become the Ghostface Killer is a tough guy. He drinks straight from the bottle while getting blown by a stripper plus he’ll kill every person in this club and a little more besides. So what about this story that’s obviously about a tough, scary guy makes it stand out from a whole slew of empty headed, violence porn where a one dimensional street tough fucks, shoots and bleeds for the benefit of his fictional ego?
12 Reasons (and the Ghostface album that accompanies it) is about all of those elements that make up the martial arts and crime movies that Wu-Tang has always publicly worshiped; honor, loyalty, sex, blood and guns. However those themes are wrapped up in a story that is smart, knowing, wild and frightening. I say “knowing” in that Anthony Starks doesn’t talk like a 1930s gangster, he talks like Ghostface. That creates a welcome division between Starks’ relentless, over the top violence and reality. I’ve always said that I don’t like James Bond because I can’t cheer for a character who everything always works out for, but having listened to the 12 Reasons album many times while also following the second half of the story, we know that things are not going to work out for Starks. He’s going to get betrayed and he’s going to end up dead and melted into supernatural revenge records. So I don’t mind his insane war on everyone in the past because it’s not about a Tony Montana blood soaked rise to the top, it’s about a blood soaked rise to the middle and then a big drop.
Like each issue, the two parts of the story are separated by a striking splash page, this issue by David Murdoch. While in the first section we get the events leading up to Anthony’s violent demise at the hands of the Delucas, in the latter section we follow a “crate digger” who’s traveling around the world trying to assemble all 12 of the fabled records for his wealthy boss. These records keep getting played, this issue by a dominatrix and a dj with hilarious (read:bloody) consequences. For when you play the record, you bring out the Ghostface. (Get it?)
The writing is strong with Matt Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon knowing how much to show the reader and when. It’s this writing that transcends simple genre cliché which would be all too easy given the subject matter. It’s hard to avoid stereotypes and obvious tropes when you’re telling a crime story, especially about the mafia, that’s just the nature of the beast. So while the beginnings of each issue do a great job imparting Anthony Starks’ rise and fall, the book really shines during the out and out horror pages. (The sections are called, “The Lead Years” and “The Dead Years”) Especially this issue, the scene that I briefly touched on earlier, with the DJ at the club, it’s some of the best art that’s been seen in the book so far, truly mind melting madness courtesy of Gus Storms and featuring the outstanding color work from Jean-Paul Csuka.
This book may kick like a shotgun and bleed like a head wound but there’s real talent behind the smoke and carnage. It’s fun! There I said it, I was trying to dress it up but it’s just a fun book to read. You’ve got smart writing, great art, Wu-Tang and all coming from one of the few comic book companies that aren’t actively talking down to you or treating you like a walking dollar sign, Black Mask Studios. With a constant revolving roster of all star artists contributing both covers and interiors and a totally reasonable $3.50 price tag you should get on board with 12 Reasons, unless you want to piss off Ghostface…
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