DIES IRAE, ISSUE #1
Cartoonist: Matthew Rucker (Twitter Handle: @MonumentousMatt)
WHAT IS IT?
A post-rapture tale of the remaining humans trying to stay alive that's only told visually – no words or sound effects.
The plot in one sentence? One unnamed masked badass finds an equally badass sword that can help the humans fight in a world overrun by demon-like creatures.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
As it's Dies Irae's first issue it's hard to talk plot at length, especially for it having no words or sound effects. Yet, Rucker's synopsis sheds a little light:
"In an arctic post-rapture apocalypse, where the last remaining humans can do nothing but hide to survive, one person discovers the key to fighting back against the denizens of heaven and hell."
As our main character wears a scarf, let's call her "Scarf" for simplicity's sake. (I know, real creative of me, huh?)
Rucker presents a world overrun with flying creatures, and four epic-looking "bosses" with the sort of character design you'd see in a Dark Souls boss battle. After mapping out areas where enemies reside, Scarf lies down to sleep and an "Inner Eye" appears with visions of what she must do. This includes a lot of blood, battling some hardcore-looking enemies, and a literal sign she must find.
Rucker's cover is quite eye-catching with its design (influenced by classic religious paintings and illuminated manuscripts) and bright color usage. It's also smart he added that it's a "Silent Comic" so people know beforehand.
Although it seems like there isn't much story going on, Rucker is able to give hints in the background, and visually. As of right now, it's also quite easy to follow.
Despite Dies Irae being after an event that has left the earth in desperate times, it doesn't feel as such throughout the pages. There are brief moments of peace and even a humorous moment that gave me a great chuckle.
A lot of Dies Irae seems to take inspiration from the Dark Souls series and games like it. This can be seen in the design, fights, and storytelling elements. Personally, I see nothing wrong with this as Rucker seems to take inspiration, yet does it his own way.
The designs throughout are awesome. Honestly, it was the reason I picked it up. Scarf's suit is thin, fast, agile, and makes her look like an assassin. Her scarf adds an extra layer to this suit, as it amplifies the rest of it. Then when she comes out of it, she has a bright pink hairstyle that stands out.
Not only is Scarf's design great, but the four main "bosses" she fights are uniquely fantastic. As noted, they ooze Dark Souls vibes and Rucker makes it look elegant. Plus, by the designs alone, you can tell what kinda character they are – important for wordless storytelling.
The reveal of Scarf's gender was a great one. Rucker makes her suit thin without the weird "boob armor," then bam, she takes the suit off and I'm reminded of Samus. It helps she is badass throughout.
As the story is visual-only, Rucker makes each moment, and each movement, overact, helping portray what he is trying to tell. It's theatrical, yet it never feels too overdone.
The fights feel fluid while being visually clean. It's easy to make a fight feel too busy, but Rucker makes the fights epic-looking while keeping clarity. Even the normal movement feels fluid.
The colors have a generally great vibe all around and the contrast behind the bright and dark colors work amazingly.
When a panel needs to feel more dramatic, Rucker keeps a solid background or adds action lines that help tell the story.
All in all, Rucker's decision to make Dies Irae wordless and soundless is what makes the title so unique. Plus, it also has the added benefit of being accessible to individuals with reading disorders who are interested in comic books.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
There is a synopsis on the comics Comixology webpage that explains what you are getting into before buying, yet a longer more detailed "prologue" would've helped on a "title" page of some kind.
For being a visual-only comic and one of Rucker's first that he has published, it does quite a bit right and only a few things feel off. At no point does Rucker do anything "wrong," but there are a couple of things to note that could've helped the story and that some readers may want to know. For one, placing the main character's name somewhere in her base would benefit the reader when talking to others about it, while making the reader have a personal connection. Or he could've had that also be on the "title" page.
The name, Dies Irae seems to derive from a Latin sequence that seems to do with religion. Plus, there are some religious moments that transpire within the story and on the cover, as mentioned. As someone who grew up never learning much about religion, I never felt lost. Yet, this is still something to consider when reading, but it never hinders the reading experience.
Some readers out there may not enjoy silent comics. Yet, you'd be missing out on a great first issue of a self-published comic.
Advertising: Now, this isn't a dig on Rucker, as a lot of people/companies have this problem. But, I barely saw Dies Irae advertised anywhere, I only happened to run across it while looking at the new releases on Comixology. With so many hundreds of comics being released almost daily, make sure you advertise the hell out of yourself and the product! Plus, make sure it's easy to find all of your social media accounts!
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Because supporting indie/self-published creators helps comics evolve/progress while bringing amazing talent into the attention of others. Hell, you may even find a new favorite.
It helps that Rucker's art is amazing, fluid and can easily tell a story without words. Plus the designs alone are worth reading Die Irae #1.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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