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"Knock Em Dead #1" Comic Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by AfterShock Comics

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Written by Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Mattia Monaco
Colored by Matt Milla
Lettered by Taylor Esposito
2020, 33 Pages, $4.99
Comic released on December 2nd, 2020

Review:

In the rainbow of genres, horror and comedy are right next to each other. If a joke gets a little bloody or the macabre, it can skew into horror, while a well-timed gag can turn a scary movie into a laughfest. Stand-up comedy represents this interesting mix of the two. On the one hand, you're trying to make people laugh, but on the other, you may want to curl up and die if you bomb on stage. This makes for a great start for a horror series.

Knock Em Dead centers on Pryor Brice, a fledgling comic trying to get his start in the stand-up space. It's not going well and his overprotective older sister is not helping matters. The two of them have seen their share of heartbreak and she doesn't want him to go through anymore. That's understandable, but you can't deny Pryor's drive. He needs to do this...even if it costs him his life.

This is billed as a horror comic, although that angle really only comes in at the very end of this debut issue. Writer Eliot Rahal spends the vast majority of this chapter introducing us to Pryor and getting us invested with his life. It makes the tragedy of later events have a bit more impact, although, as a horror fan, I was looking for the spooky stuff a little earlier. I am curious how this will eventually read as a collected edition if that flow will be different.

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This kind of pacing makes sense though. This is a comic about stand-up comedy and you need to do the setup before you get to the punchline. And boy, what a punchline this is.

That isn't to say that Knock Em Dead #1 is devoid of scary moments. Artist Mattia Monaco brings the absolute terror of being alone on stage and dying up there during Pryor's sets. You see the hope in his eyes diminish right after he finishes a joke and there's virtually no response from the crowd.

Since this is stand-up, there's not a lot of movement, however Monaco does a brilliant job in showing the passage of time by interspersing the images of Pryor on stage with the images of failure popping through his head including but not limited to his own grave, a pile of crap, and a bag of dildos.

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We don't actually hear Pryor's jokes, but you get the vibes of them. Letterer Taylor Esposito uses some scribbles early on and then some emojis to designate the joke-telling from the standard dialogue. In the scheme of things, we don't need to hear his bit, but we need to see him do it, so this is an effective maneuver.

The real star of Knock Em Dead #1 is colorist Matt Milla. After Pryor bombs on stage, his mind goes to some dark places, imagining the audience dying or exploding. The color switches from the bright lights of the stage to a horrifying orange / red. It's as if this bomb was so large that it blotted out any and all lights around it. It's a great effect that really drives home the cringe feeling of these failures.

While I am curious how Knock Em Dead #1 would read if we got the big cliffhanger earlier in the issue, this is an effective debut that pulls us into this young man's life. We want to see Pryor succeed, especially since he's already been through so much. Can laughter emerge from all this tragedy and pain? Or is something darker lurking nearby? Knock Em Dead gives new meaning to the phrase “I'm dying up here” by adding a supernatural spin on it.

Grades:

Story: fourstars Cover
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Buy from Amazon UK
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Art: fourandahalfstars
Overall: 4 Star Rating

About The Author
James Ferguson
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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