Wow...that was sure a lot of Sandman comics. A lot of good stuff, but now it is nice to turn the focus back on my weekly randomness at Tradio. This week, I look at Near Death: Volume One by Jay Faerber and Simone Guglielmini and published by Image Comics.
Near Death is a straight up hit man story that isn't so straight forward. Markham is a professional contract killer who has a near death experience during a routine assignment that bleaches a tuft of his hair and sets him on a new mission to save as many people as he has killed and thus keep himself from going to hell. Can he stay on the straight and narrow or will he fall back into old habits? Will his sudden change of heart cause his past employers to come looking for him? Since he is motivated only by his wanting to stay out of hell and not because he really wants to help people, will all his work ultimately have it's desired effect? That remains to be seen, but each issue in the trade is a self-contained story that has central themes and characters woven throughout.
Near Death is good, but it just doesn't seem to be as thought out as something like Criminal, which you can tell that the series borrows heavily from. The art is really a homage to Sean Philips which is a blessing and a curse. In one hand, it is familiar if you are familiar with Criminal and feels natural, but on the other hand, this is NOT Criminal and Near Death suffers from that comparison. It doesn't let the work stand on it's own and I think it will always live in that title's shadow. Overall, it isn't bad at all, but there are some things keeping it back from being great. The best this title can do is continue to separate it from other similar works and stand on it's own...only then will it be held up as the work it deserves to be.