The Rule Of Death # 1-4
Words by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Pictures by Douglas Noble, online colours by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey.
Originally published online in colour at Serializer.net, The Rule Of Death is an extremely quirky black and white comic indeed. If you want the quick summary, it’s essentially Western Zombie Tales of a man who just decides he’s not going to stay dead.
But it’s much better, much cleverer than that simple summary. Starting with the very first pages, with Pete getting up from his coffin with the words: “No. I’m sorry. I’ve given it some thought. I don’t want to die.” I just knew this was going to be an enjoyable read. And so it proved. Goodbrey’s story, following Pete’s reintroduction to a town that just doesn’t really want to acknowledge the dead man walking amongst them, is perfectly paced and has a sharpness of dialogue that makes it a hugely entertaining read.
(From the online coloured version of Rule Of Death. Pete decides that today just isn’t a good day to die.)
Once Pete realises what’s happened to him, he takes it upon himself to seek out certain townsfolk from before his passing. He’s after his old job from Murphy, the saloon keeper, but that doesn’t work out on account of a dead guy not being the hottest draw at the local saloon. Likewise, his meeting with the Doctor and the Priest don’t go well. But then Murphy has an idea. What could be better in the wild, wild west than a man who doesn’t die when shot? Murphy’s a smart one and knows an opportunity when he sees one. Or maybe he’s just drunk. Murphy’s drunk a lot.
Murphy and Pete hit the road, going from town to town as Slow Draw Pete McGraw, the slowest gunslinger in the old west. Not the best, just the slowest. But speed doesn’t matter that much when you have all the time in the world to get that shot off.
(Slow Draw Pete McGraw. Slow and a bad shot. It’s a good job he’s already dead really. From Rule Of Death.)
Of course, not all is well and a man refusing death may have to answer to a higher power at some point, a higher power that seems to be following the group, riding a stagecoach and promising that “Death comes to us all, Pete Colby. Death comes to us all. It comes for you. And all the lives you touch.”
For a book with a man refusing death Goodbrey is never short of a comedy one liner or two. And it’s this refusal to let neither the macabre events or the ridiculousness of the situation get out of hand that sees Rule Of Death rise above what could have been a rather silly or a rather doom laden zombie tale and turn into something far, far better and wonderfully original.
To be honest, after starting them in comic form and then continuing online I have to say I prefer Noble’s art in black and white to the coloured version online. Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with the colouring done by Goodbrey, it’s just my own preference. Maybe the black and white just carries the dark theme of the book a little better, maybe it’s just me preferring the printed page to the online one. But I think that Noble’s black and white art just looks so very good on Rule Of Death that colouring it rather flattens it out and loses some of the brooding intensity of the work.
(Compare and contrast time. First the online colour version of Rule Of Death at the start of the review, then the black and white version above. I think Noble’s art looks better in black and white.)
The comic is serialised in colour at Serializer.net. But like I said, I preferred the stark black and white of Noble’s art in comic form rather than the coloured online version. Get in touch with either Noble or Goodbrey for copies. But whichever you choose, it’s a great comic.