Something that I've long held to be true is that stories are how we order the chaos of the world and that the best stories are those that challenge our perspectives on the chaos we think we have ordered. While that usually means telling a tale from a human perspective, sometimes it's taking the divine and bringing it to our level that makes for a thought-provoking narrative and an incredible story; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 is exactly just such a story.
There is no getting around it so I'll be direct. Written by Ram V with art by Filipe Andrade, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 is an outstanding work. While writing and art are supposed to work in combination in any comic book, it's rare to encounter a comic where both parts are entirely in sync as they are here. Andrade's art tells the story every bit as clearly and plainly as Ram V's words, but together they elevate one another to something that lives and breathes. That is important because The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is steeped in some dense concepts.
The book is titled The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, but Laila Starr is not technically the primary character. That distinction belongs to Death who winds up inhabiting the body of Laila Starr after essentially losing her job amongst the gods. It's the supernatural element of things that make the comic fascinating. It's steeped in non-Western theology and mythology, but it's presented in a way that feels universal because, frankly, it is. Life and death and the struggles in between are universal and so is Death's predicament. Who hasn't felt displaced and out of sorts and determined to do anything necessary to change their fate?
However, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is more than just existential questions. There is also nestled into it a more pressing plot. Solicitations for the comic lay this out clearly: humanity is on the verge of discovering immortality, and the person who will discover immorality is born just as Death is sent to live a mortal lifetime. This first issue sees Laila set on her path to not only change the course of humanity but perhaps change herself as well. It's something that could feel cliché, but Ram V crafts things beautifully. There are no wasted words here. There's just an honesty to each line of text and an honesty echoed in each image on the page. Even the surprise in the issue's final pages feels less like a cliffhanger and more like a natural progression. To explain it in terms of a bad metaphor, this is a story that blossoms, each page a petal of a larger flower nearing full bloom.
The bottom line is this: The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #1 does something that too few comics do. It presents an elegant, richly human story told in a steady, poetic voice with equally elegant and poetic art that speaks to a larger sense of the living experience. While the idea of bringing gods into the mortal realm is by no means a new concept, Ram V does something unique in making Death one of us, sending her on a journey that may be absent obvious humor or sweeping adventure, but is no less exciting and exhilarating for it. This is not just a story about life and death. It, like life itself, is an experience.
Published by Boom Studios
On April 21, 2021
Written by Ram V
Art by Filipe Andrade
Colors by Filipe Andrade with Inês Amaro
Letters by AndWorld Design
Cover by Filipe Andrade