There’s a statement in a file (once it would have been a prophecy in a sacred book) saying: “On the twelfth day of the twelfth month, shall he be born into man, the child who shall bring eternal life”; in a nutshell: “Death shall have no dominion”. Point is: Death shall have no job either and this is exactly what triggers The many Deaths of Laila Starr, the new Boom! Studios five issues series by Ram V (writer), Filipe Andrade (artist), Inês Amaro (color assistant) and AndWorld Design (lettering).
“Far beyond mortal clouds” gods live and look after the things of the world and the Pantheon looks like a typical company: corridors, offices, hierarchy and, let’s say, Divine Resource management. So it should come with no surprise that, as soon as Death has no more work to do, she is fired: an eternity of commitment thrown away in a moment. She is on her own, now, and to win her role back she decide to just kill “the child who shall bring eternal life”.
This debut issue is largely devoted to set up the story and introduce the main characters: irony is the main register and it emerges by the contrast between the seriousness of the theme (blocking Death should mean disrupt the equilibrium of the universe) and the treatment of gods, whose cares look mundane indeed. To this you must add the voice off that annotates the events almost image by image, that establishes an overall emotional distance. At least until when Death incarnates and start discovering the human world: from this turning point, colour tones become warmer (this makes emotions flow finally through) and troubles become individual, events take speed and the actual narrative looks to take off.
In the end, The many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 exploits slow but constant acceleration; what is missing is a strong moment capable to mark the atmosphere: the best candidate is surely the scene in which Death takes the new born child and ponders on murdering him, but one plate and a half (eight images) are not enough to create momentum. The root cause is because, at this point, Death is still an undefined character, who acted almost comical just few pages before: in this scene a critical shift takes place, but her decision springs from a blank context, so that the decisions itself appears improvised, just functional to keep the plot going on. On the other hand, it looks clear the tale is intended character centred, as there presence dominates almost each image: faces, eyes, expressions are always neat, defined by lines and almost no shading at all amplified by backgrounds composed by uniform colour zones. So, this first issue suffers from the dissonance between the claimed importance of the character and their actual shallow definition.
English translation by Simone Rastelli