You don’t come across too many necromancer stories these days. There’s Sauron, and you can’t get much bigger than Lord of the Rings. Villains are always strategizing ways to extend or reanimate life, but the title, necromancer, feels underused.
Created by Michael Christopher Heron and Andrea Fort, Songs for the Dead #1 is trying to do something different. While I veered away from some of the material, that’s because it’s pushing a moral nerve that doesn’t get touched. Bringing back the dead’s a nasty business and Bethany doesn’t want to follow the footsteps of those who abused the power. There are rules. Those who get brought back return with their wounds unhealed. The conciliation of not feeling pain helps, but there are causes of death that make rebirth inadvisable.
Necromancy also offers the option for mind control. It’s this power that’s got the bad guys talking but Bethany denies using it to send an assassin their way. I don’t trust her but am not sure if we’re supposed to. Later the same blue wisps the assassin had around his eyes are a sign of possession, and there’s a squirrel that meets Bethany already undead. The issue doesn’t overtly push you to question her. Bethany is an eager hero looking to prove herself and work out how notice boards work, but that doesn’t mean she’s entirely above board.
Sam Beck’s layouts utilize the whole page. Borders are rare. Instead a main image will take up the background and panels sit on top like stepping stones, with thinly inked edges. There are interior forest scenes with the lighting of Bambi or Snow White. A lot of irregular shapes get used for the panels instead of squares and rectangles. One page uses polygons that cobble together to make two, parallel, vertical roads. When you read them up and down, instead of left to right, it keeps the point of view consistent instead of split. There’s no correct way to go about it but Deron Bennett’s lettering is crisp, and enjoys the occasional grey bubble with glowing blue text.
What all of this positive energy can’t erase is that necromancy is creepy, unnatural, and not inclined to be good. Death is meant to be avoided. Necromancy provides a safety net but still, you want to live for as long as you can without it. That’s not what happens in Songs for the Dead. Instead what’s prevalent is people being killed before their time in order to be brought back. I believe Bethany believes her heroic spiel but necromancy might be past rebranding, whatever her intentions.