Wyoming, 1873. Miranda Coler wakes, submerged in the creek, her body buzzing with flies. She stumbles to her house near the creek, to find her home in disarray and her husband and daughter dead inside. After burying their bodies, she rides to South Pass City, vowing to kill the outlaws that murdered her family. Meanwhile, Murray, an undertaker in South Pass, has been unsuccessfully using his own interpretation of various religions, including Zuni rituals, to try to bring back the dead. Mixing these various rituals and religious traditions, Murray has been trying to be intimate with death and learn how to cross into the Underneath. Miranda and Murray’s paths cross in a brothel, just as Miranda is shot and killed by one of the outlaws she has tracked down. Miranda wakes up in Murray’s mortuary with no memory of being shot or dying. Amazed by what he mistakes as his success in finally bringing back the dead, Murray explains to Miranda that he has been trying to bring back the soul of his dead wife, Heather, from the Other Place. In fact, he had succeeded in bringing back Heather’s body, but her blank, soulless eyes betray the fact that he was not able to bring her soul from the Other Place. Miranda decides to work with Murray, agreeing to help him bring back his wife, but each time Miranda goes to the Other Place, her memories fade just a little more.
Death Be Damned is a Western crossed with horror and fantasy, and is most suitable for adult readers due to some violent and disturbing imagery contained in the book. The mystical elements of the story add some interest to an otherwise simple graphic novel. Those looking for a complex plot and well thought-out characters might want to look elsewhere, but those looking for a fun, adventurous book will find this a quick and satisfying read.
One reason the book fell short of my expectations was the inadequacy of character development. Miranda Coler was a fascinating character at first—a woman set on avenging her family at any cost. Her purpose is solely on avenging her family. Although she agrees to help Murray, her own focus is only on revenge. She is not interested in being in the Underneath or bringing anyone back, including her family. However, I would have liked to see her do more and be more than the character who keeps getting killed and resurrected countless times through the short book. I would have also liked to learn more about the Underneath and the fantasy aspects of crossing into the world of the dead.
The art lacks complexity, much like the plot and characters, with crudely drawn characters and backgrounds. I did, however, enjoy the scenes where Miranda is in the Other Place. The haunting, blue and violet-hued scenes add some interest to the overall look of the art.
Death Be Damned would be a suitable choice for adult readers who enjoy western-themed graphic novels. Those looking for more complex stories might consider Jonathan Hickman’s East of West series or The Dark Tower graphic novels.
Death Be Damned
by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker, Andrew Miller
Art by Hannah Christenson
Boom! Studios, 2017