“I always knew math would doom us all.”
There have been quite a number of interpretations of the Anti-Life Equation through DC’s history. We’ve seen it appear as different variations of a tool to control the minds of people, an intelligence from a different dimension, and more. I think its mercurial manifestations throughout various stories nicely build an idea that it’s something that eludes us from fully grasping it, like how Darkseid regularly underestimates its impact. The horror of it, however, fully comes to light in a corruption of it, presented in DCeased by Tom Taylor, Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, James Harren, Neil Edwards, Laura Braga, Richard Friend, Trevor Scott, Darick Robertson, Rain Beredo, and Saida Temofonte.
On the surface, it’s easy to correlate this with Marvel’s similar zombie-turned world in Marvel Zombies, but in practice they’re completely different animals. Where the earlier event is kind of a send-up of zombies in general, with the superheroes already turned into flesh-eating versions of themselves, DCeased sees the destruction of the world and spread of the infection. It’s about the desperation of survival and how quickly hope dies when heroes fall and rise as the very things they were fighting against.
Tom Taylor is no stranger to alternate realities in the DC Multiverse, let alone dystopian alternate realities in it, having already cut his teeth in the Injustice and Earth 2 worlds. How he approaches the narrative here is compelling, framing this gargantuan end of days scenario with massive devastation and loss of life through a deeply personal lens. I don’t think the actual narrator is revealed until later on in the story, so I’ll not spoil it, but it’s one that makes you want to read it again once you discover that knowledge and have it hit home all the more.
Trevor Hairsine has always reminded me of the general progression of style on from Alan Davis and Bryan Hitch. Lithe characters with a consistent sense of action, even adopting the approach of borderless panels. It’s a style that works brilliantly for larger-than-life tales like superheroes and the end of the world. What I find fascinating about Hairsine’s work here with Stefano Gaudiano inking him is that many of the scratchier hatching, rougher lines, are brought to the fore and it gives everything a nice gritty feel. It captures the entire essence of a superhero world turned into a nightmare perfectly.
I think it’s interesting that the actual discovery and infection sequence, of Darkseid and Desaad manipulating the Anti-Life Equation, has the art duties shift to James Harren. His style is so incredibly different from Hairsine’s, making it stand out even more. It’s reminiscent of the creature art style of Guy Davis, Troy Nixey, and the like, and it’s a treat whenever we get to see Harren do his stuff. I feel the shift in style helps emphasize how alien the infection truly is.
Rain Beredo’s colouring nicely straddles the line between the bright colours of a superhero fantasy and the bleak and bloody darkness of a zombie apocalypse. That highly polished interplay is also present in Saida Temofonte’s letters, with what almost appears like torn sheets for dialogue boxes and some interesting unique word balloons for characters, especially the devolution for the infected.
The collection also includes the one shot, A Good Day to Die, that opens up side stories of magic and gods trying to save the universe with art duties from Laura Braga, Richard Friend, Trevor Scott, and Darick Robertson. It’s an interlude that opens up a lot more for what will come in the ongoing story. (And is a bit of a tease for Taylor and Robertson working together again later on Hellblazer: Rise and Fall.)
DCeased from Taylor, Hairsine, Gaudino, Harren, Edwards, Braga, Friend, Scott, Robertson, Beredo, and Temofonte is an interesting take on DC lore as it turns the universe into a unique post-Apokolips tale. It works as a standalone zombie tale if that’s what you want, but it also opens the door to a wider story that’s currently finishing up in War of the Undead Gods.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudino, James Harren, Neil Edwards, Laura Braga & Richard Friend and Trevor Scott, Darick Robertson
Colourist: Rain Beredo
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: November 26 2019