Created and written by Benjamin J. Kreger and That’s Not Current‘s Edward Ellsworth, with pencils and inks by Stefano Cardoselli, “Ides of March” is a one-shot prelude to Warrior Innkeeper Creative’s new series, The Black Suit of Death.
Reimagining the Grim Reaper as a human in a black suit (of Death), “Ides of March” details the circumstances around the outfit’s creation. Utopia IX is running out of energy. If they don’t find a fresh power source soon, overpopulation will lead to the planet’s downfall. Dr. Seitsan believes he has an answer to both problems. Effective or not, the Council of Nine is horrified. Banishing Seitsan and his suit to Earth, they’re ready to condemn another planet if it means saving their own. And if that doesn’t scream “utopian…”
“Ides of March”
Modern protagonist, Edd Grimes, will be introduced in the first issue (“Ide’s” fourth edition includes a brief preview), and an account of the BSD’s movements up to that point has been promised (bring on the re-explanations of historic catastrophes!).
The mysterious fate of Utopia IX set-up in this prelude, though, could easily warrant a revisit down the line. Coming across less like a perfect new land than the same old white, patriarchal status quo, it’s believable that the Council of Nine should be living the good life as authority figures. We have to take their word for it, however, that their poverty-less, reality TV-ridden citizens are equally pleased.
The partnership between writing and art works wonderfully to carry readers along. Cardoselli’s panels depict a utopia that avoids the tropes (nothing stark white, overly futuristic or nature-based) for a look that is almost medieval meets electricity, while Craig Gilliland’s colors provide an added gravity to the high stakes moral questions being debated.
Highlighting the hypocrisy and classism the Council of Nine both profit from and act blind to (it’s a utopia!), guards and other underling characters are portrayed having their own conversations while Dr. Seitsan and the Council are talking. A technique that adds layers and realism to scenes, here’s hoping it become a trademark of the series going forward.
There’s one timeline mix-up that temporarily takes you out of the story. During a fight before he is banished Dr. Seitsan questions one of the guards, “Etu Brute?” but later, when he is found on Earth, the time stamp makes it sound like Caesar’s assassination hasn’t happened yet. Other pop culture references made on Utopia IX are inside jokes (and very funny ones), that make sense without their source material but here, without the betrayal context of Caesar’s assassination, one of the characters saying “Etu Brute?” doesn’t. If the guard was coincidentally named Brutus…but right now it’s a small detail that doesn’t quite fit. The larger picture remains intact.
Fourth Edition Perks
Along with the new cover (Brett Weldele) and sneak peek at issue one (Dexter Wee and Bryan Arfel Magnaye take over as artist and colorist, respectfully), Tony Morgan’s “Li’l BSD” offers a delightful dark twist on a childhood classic. “Black Suit of Death: Eden” changes format, with a first-person narrative by Dr. Seitsan of missing time from the comic. Whether you prefer “Eden’s” “As the transfer pod heated up, I became aware of yet another flaw in my prototype. It would need a cooling system added…” or “Ide’s” “I’m sweating my balls off in this,” for conveying the suit’s uncomfortableness, will depend on the reader (I lean towards the former), it’s a strong showcase of range that also includes bonus tidbits on Utopia IX’s technology and philosophy.
As a curiosity raiser for the first issue (be on the lookout for a release around Halloween), “Ides of March” delivers. Will be interesting to see how they incorporate the BSD into history and expand the Grim Reaper mythology in the future.
Available for download here.