DEATHBED #2 by Joshua Williamson, Riley Rossmo, and Ivan Plascencia
DEATHBED #2 proves why it's one of the best new comics out there. With a completely over-the-top narrative that showcases the best of its wacky lead, as well as some incredibly energetic art, you need to own this story.
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Bonkers in the Best Way
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When I read the first issue of DEATHBED, and now DEATHBED #2, I was wowed by the utterly bonkers nature of the story. In that first issue alone, writer Joshua Williamson took readers into the heart of a tale where mummified zombie warriors and naked geriatric super-soldiers were the norm.

For some readers, this entire premise may seem too over the top, and I can understand that. I still had to have more of this psychotic tale. Now, with the release of DEATHBED #2, readers get the chance to explore deeper into Antonio Luna’s impossible life. So can he and Val stop the forces of evil from erasing Luna’s life from the history books?

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Adventurer Antonio Luna’s story is in danger. The aforementioned zombies seek to kill his former associates. In doing so, they eliminate any chance for them to corroborate his history. Reporter Val follows Luna to each of his former friend’s homes, only to find them dead. During one particular encounter, Luna interrupts a funeral with stories of his sexual escapades and daring adventures. This doesn’t go over well with the crowd, who drives him and Val off the premises. However, the pair is captured by a mysterious cult before they can make their escape.

Bonkers but Straightforward

DEATHBED #2 pages 1 & 2. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

From that summary description alone, you can see just how over-the-top DEATHBED #2 is. Williamson takes risks with every single turn of the page, and I have a lot of respect for that. This isn’t a particularly action-heavy issue, but Williamson’s sense of pacing is spot on.

The dialogue is cunning and spectacular, and every time Antonio Luna opens his mouth, I’m riveted. Much of this story’s action takes place in brief, almost psychedelic, flashback sequences. This helps condense these scenes into bite-sized pieces and allows Williamson to tell more of Luna’s story without derailing the present narrative.

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I think the reason this plot works so well lies in the fact that we never lose track of where we stand. Williamson takes great pains to make every scene transition clear. We never once ask where in the world we ended up because Williamson has already told us. This makes the plot feel incredibly cohesive and gives this bonkers story a grounded feel. It would be another matter if readers bounced between these events without reason.

However, every step forward feels incredibly calculated and necessary. With this structure so well set up, Williamson can go in any weird direction he wants without losing the reader. There is nothing more important for a surrealist storyteller than keeping the reader on track.

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Antonio Luna’s Life

DEATHBED #2 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I think it’s a great compliment when I say I want more and more of Antonio Luna. At his heart, his character only fuels the complete psychosis of the world around him. Everything he says in DEATHBED #2 seems to come from some senile shut-in. The moment when, during an old friend’s funeral, Luna says loudly that she was “the greatest lay he ever had,” I burst out laughing.

This stems from the fact that Luna believes this to be a respectable compliment. Despite his many adventures, this man has almost no social etiquette. Yet, in this issue, we get to see him in a more believable human light. He regrets the things he said at the funeral. Before the cult captures them and throws the pair back into crazy town, Val gets a chance to see Luna’s real insecurities, and that makes him a strong character.

Speaking of Val, I’m surprised by the amount of legwork Williamson does in such a short number of pages. Unsurprisingly, she doesn’t get a lot of time to speak next to the bombastic Luna. However, much of the narration centers on her thoughts. We get a chance to pay witness to her desires, and we also get to see Luna through her eyes. It interests me that Val cannot put a finger on the man.

As an utter cynic, she can’t help but notice his many, many flaws. However, there’s a part of her that actually believes in him. This goes a long way to characterize Val and Luna at the same time, even if Val doesn’t get the same level of dialogue on the page. Also, the fact that she’s the only character willing to confront the man really makes her stand out.

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DEATHBED #2 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

I would be absolutely remiss to not mention the stellar artwork by artist Riley Rossmo. I’ve seen his work a number of times in DC canon but never has it looked better. There’s a simplicity to his style that belies the enchanting energy in each line. He doesn’t saturate the pages with unnecessary details, but nothing feels particularly clean.

I didn’t feel like his style fit the BATMAN/THE SHADOW title very well because of its naturally lighter atmosphere. However, DEATHBED #2 perfectly complements his style. The over-the-top elements allow this artist to have fun with every page, and he manages to share that fun with the readers. It’s an unapologetic joy to turn through this beautiful book.

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Helping Rossmo is Ivan Plascencia on colors, and my God does that man know how to create atmosphere. If Rossmo manages to make the book look as whacky as the story permits, Plascencia nails the tone of each individual scene. I especially enjoy the dichotomy between Luna’s memories and the feel of the outside world.

The funeral scene comes to mind as well, with its dull browns and greys contrasting sharply with Luna’s heavily saturated mindscape. It really shows how eccentric this adventurer is to the normal world, and that only comes across because of Plascencia’s colors.

Final Thoughts: DEATHBED #2

Go out right now and buy DEATHBED #2. It’s worth every single penny. I have only good things to say about this story. Comics are, by design, a medium screaming for experimentation. The visual elements allow for storytelling to go places that other mediums don’t allow.

Despite the fact that this plot comes so far out of left field, I never once felt lost, and that made this story SO endearing. More importantly, I only wanted to spend more and more time with Antonio Luna and Val Richards. This story checks off every box of a strongly written and powerful story, and the weird elements only help it stand out from the competition. Vertigo Comics has a real winner here!

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