Review: 'The Gravedigger's Union' #1 Is a Great Start With One Bright, Glaring Flaw

Gravedigger's Union #1 - Review

Wes Craig has established a reputation for stylistic and fast-paced comics at Image. Whether he's collaborating with Rick Remender on Deadly Class or kicking out a series of short tales in Blackhand Comics, it's apparent to anyone with eyes that nobody views comics like this artist. Even better? He's brought this vibe to the first series he is primarily writing. The Gravedigger's Union combines blue collar politics with gore-tastic action, and promotes the artwork of Toby Cypress, whose eye for character design and slick linework can go toe-to-toe with Craig's. The result is a debut issue where Craig and Cypress expand their work in an impressive fashion.

Cypress' ability to elongate, accentuate, and exaggerate in just the right fashion makes even the smallest of panels worth noticing. His characters wear their histories on their faces and within their builds. Even while one man's past is barely hinted at in veiled mentions of family, it's easy to see his toil and hardships by the way he looks around. Those subtle choices can light up a moment when the same character is taking off the head of a zombie. There's a lightning energy bound in the action of The Gravedigger's Union #1 where a leg kicking out can seem as long as the rest of a character's form. Yet that kick is delivered in so natural of a design that it feels like great graffiti on the side of a brick building in the south side of Chicago. It's style delivers substance in moments small and large.

Gravedigger's Union #1 - Review 2

The further you read into The Gravedigger's Union #1, the more you must concentrate in order to appreciate Cypress' work though. The creative team has decided to take a page from Wytches and layer their own work with blots of color that lie outside of the reality of any given panel. The swathes of grey, blue, and green are often barely perceptible and along with Ben-Day dots can help to create mood. Yet the team takes a more is more approach and begins to add warmer colors as the comic continues. The result becomes increasingly distracting, bringing attention to these odd choices and away from the story and storytelling elements.

The coloring is more evenly layered and effectively chosen in the action-oriented first half of the issue. As things progress the comic leans more heavily into conversation and politicking. It's here the coloring choices become too obvious to ignore and bury a premise that stands out in the current crop of comics fare. The core tension of The Gravedigger's Union is pulled from conflicts of class, in which labor and management cannot see one another's sides. The wisdom and experience of working men is ignored even as television screens sound the apocalypse. There's a nod to current politics here, but one that's not so obvious as to directly ape current proceedings. It's an evergreen sort of concept and one that is unfortunately buried beneath many maroon splotches.

The Gravedigger's Union #1 is packed with promise. Craig shows chops as a longterm plotter, beyond what was previously visible in Blackhand Comics and Cypress pushes himself to merge the blues and bloody action surprisingly well. Yet the final effects on the pages mute the effect of the comic. It's a choice that will need correcting if this story wants to resonate with readers for more than one issue.

Grade: B

Written by Wes Craig

Art by Toby Cypress (pages 6-30) and Wes Craig (pages (1-5)

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Colors by Niko Guardia

Lettering and Design by Jared K. Fletcher