Canadian artist Wes Craig is currently best known as the artist and co-creator of the Image Comics series Deadly Class (with writer Rick Remender), but he has also worked for DC Comics and Marvel on titles like Batman, Thunder Agents, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The Gravediggers Union shows him primarily as a writer, with artist (and co-creator) Toby Cypress taking most of the line artist duties. Cypress also has a broad resume, including work for Dark Horse, Image, and alternate covers for DC’s series The Omega Men (plus interior art on one issue).

In this world, the Gravediggers Union is not only responsible for burying the dead: it’s also their job to make sure they stay in the ground. They are facing a worldwide supernatural crisis, as there are ghost storms, zombie mobs, and nests of vampires to deal with. Slaying the undead was never an easy job, but the Union is beginning to feel overwhelmed. So much so that experienced gravedigger Cole decides to talk to the witch Morphea (something that the union’s charter specifically prohibits).

Morphea points Cole to an organization called the Black Temple, who worship dark gods (those gods turn out to be the ones seen in the wordless flashbacks at the beginning of each issue). Not only that, but Cole’s estranged daughter Morgan—a promising young witch—may be involved. While the witch and the gravediggers investigate, another narrative thread shows Morgan’s adventures, which come together at the very end. It becomes clear that the quest has become much larger: the Gravediggers Union is on a mission to stop the end of the world.

The horror and supernatural elements are well established, and fortunately include a bit of humor as well. In this way, the series has a lot in common with Deadly Class, although the premise is much broader. The Dark Gods sequences are very effective visually, even though they don’t make much sense until a few issues in. Cypress’s broad cartoon style is similar to Craig’s, so the sometimes extreme violence is presented with a light touch. In the end, the premise has to be accepted with a large dose of suspension of disbelief, but even so, the next volume should have lots of answers.

The Mature rating for this volume comes from the violence and implied curse words (which are all filled in with the usual “meaningless” symbols, still allowing the reader to fill in the blanks). But otherwise, there is nothing here that would have made a Teen rating unreasonable. Certainly, the cartoonish style prevents even the most extreme violence from looking realistic. Craig’s writing is effective: the characters have distinctive voices (including one with the Jamaican patois that so many writers seem to find irresistible), and the concept finds a novel angle on supernatural horror. Fans of Deadly Class are likely to be interested in this series as well.

The Gravediggers Union, vol. 1
by Wes Craig
Art by Toby Cypress, Niko Guardia
ISBN: 9781534306509
Image Comics, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: M/Mature

  • Mark S.

    Past Reviewer

    I am a musician/composer (librarian by profession) with a special interest in “mature readers” comic books, especially those published by DC Comics under their Vertigo imprint. Now retired, in the past I have worked as an academic reference librarian and Director of Research at an executive search firm; my last position was reference librarian at Hughes Main Library in the Greenville County Library System in Greenville, SC. My writing history includes book reviews for Library Journal and Salem Press, and I was a regular contributor of recording reviews to Option Magazine. I am currently a Contributor (as well as Article Editor) at the website All About Jazz and a moderator at the Captain Comics website. My comics blog is Mr. Vertigo Comics (https://mrvertigocomics.wordpress.com/).

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