Henry David Thoreau once said that “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” That so isn’t the case with the man known as “ghost” who is the lead character in Dead Man’s Party, the action-packed, thrill-a-minute independent comicbook that is being produced by Jeff Marsick (writer) and Scott Barnett (illustrator). To be sure, Ghost isn’t his given name, but we’d be hard pressed to tell you what it is as — three issues into the four-issue series —we still don’t know, but that is only because Jeff and Scott haven’t told us (and believe you me, we’ve asked…repeatedly). No, it isn’t so much that Ghost doesn’t have a real name, it is that he has dozens of “real” names (hey, according to him, even his aliases have aliases). Ghost, you see, is a hit man; and not just any hit man, he is one of the top cadre of hit men across the world, commanding as much as 250K for each hit.
Life is good for Ghost. Only not so much these days.
The problem of being at the top of your game is that everyone who is under you wants to take you out and take your place; which is precisely what has happened to Ghost. Someone wants him dead, so they arranged to fake evidence indicating that he had Stage 4 incurable cancer. Not wanting to go out a painful and debilitating death, Ghost arranged for a “Dead Man’s Party” that is to say, he set up his own death. He put in place a scenario where he put an open contract on himself that can be taken up by five of his peers, each one of them attempting to punch his ticket first. The first one to do so will gain access to all of his vast wealth, client list, and will not only be able to claim bragging rights for having put down Ghost, but will also be able to add an additional 100K to their own asking price. There’s just one problem.
As stated, Ghost isn’t dying, he was brilliantly set up, and now he is on the run for his life (the Party can’t be called off). So with all the best hit men (and women) in the world out to pick up a big paycheck at his expense, he is attempting to not only stay alive, but discover who set him up, why, and (for good measure) kill the SOB himself. Only the clock is running out and the assassins who are pursuing him are getting closer and closer all the time. Things don’t look so good for Ghost.
Fortunately for us (the audience) things are looking great indeed, for not only has Marsick written a most excellent story, but Barnett has painted a truly excellent comic. In an industry that is full to overflowing with over-muscled men in leather and spandex, big breasted women in barely-there lycra almost, but quite covering up their, ah, assets, shuffling zombies looking to devour our flesh, aliens, robots, wise-cracking anthropomorphic creatures, furies and all the rest, reading Marsick and Barnett’s tale is more akin to watching a high-octane movie unfold in glorious 2D on paper (or, you know, digitally) in front of you. Seriously, this is story is an amazing bit of fiction that not only presents us with a uniquely novel story but believable characters, realistic dialogue, as well as exciting and compelling action sequences. In fact if we had any single complaint about this series is that it doesn’t come out daily.
Given the flat, static nature of comicbooks (not to mention the truly pedestrian art and repetitively uninteresting stories that fill up most of the comics produced these days), it is beyond refreshing to not only actually look forward to reading a comic, but to be entranced, and amazed about how much it can move you to be engaged with the action (yes, action) contained within the pages. Marsick’s script most assuredly delivers that kind of visceral punch while Barnett’s painted art so crisply conveys the on-page action. It is almost as if you are not so much reading a “funnybook” but pursuing a big-budget, Hollywood storyboard. Yes, kids, this is the one comicbook that you hope gets discovered by some Hollywoodland agent and turned into the next Jason Borne series.
Dead Man’s Party can be found at these comic shops as well as online (as a Print on Demand comic) from IndyPlanet.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing comicbooks for some 30 years. During that time, his reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular comicbook articles and reviews.