Death Isn’t As Permanent As They’d Have You Believe – The Gravediggers Union Vol. 1

by Brendan M. Allen

The supernatural world has gone berserk, and it’s all tied to a powerful cult called the Black Temple. They want to unleash ancient dark gods on mankind and bring about the apocalypse. The only thing that stands in their way are Cole, Haley, and Ortiz. They’re members of the Gravediggers Union, a brotherhood sworn to defend the living from the undead. At the center of the Black Temple’s plan is a street kid named Morgan. She’s the key to the coming apocalypse. Also, she’s Cole’s estranged daughter. To find her, the Gravediggers will have to contend with a witch who hates their guts, a former cult member who used to be the world’s biggest movie star, yuppie vampires, steroid-zombies, junk golems…and no overtime pay. Deadly Class co-creator Wes Craig teams up with artist Toby Cypress (Omega Men) to introduce you to the weird horror of The Gravediggers Union.

The Gravediggers Union opens with a few pages of author Wes Craig’s own artwork, setting the tone for this alternate timeline Earth. Mankind’s evolutionary predecessors serve the Cthonic Titans, towering Lovecraftian beasts with thousands of serpentine eyes and twisted limbs to spare. Alien and supernatural forces have been on play since the inception of this planet.

Flash forward a few millennia. Zombie hordes, ghost storms, and ghoul attacks are commonplace, almost banal occurrences. The dead don’t stay in the ground. Craig throws us into this world without a whole lot of commentary, but it’s easy enough to get caught up. Cole is the locker room general of the Union, and even though he doesn’t have any real pull with the bureaucrats that sign the checks, the other men look up to him and follow without question. Cole notices a recent surge in supernatural activity, and enlists a couple of the other veteran Diggers to go rogue to get to the bottom of an insane cult plot that cuts a little too close to the quick.

Craig’s script is surprisingly light, given the subject matter. This first arc weaves seamlessly through layers of worldbuilding and character development. For the most part, the dialogue flows easily and advances the plot. I love that Craig lets the reader sort some things out on their own. There’s not a lot of heavy exposition here. A few of the earlier WTF moments get explained later in this book. Some are left hanging, presumably for the next arc.

After those first few flashback pages, it’s Toby Cypress’ turn on pencils. Cypress’ loose style and Niko Guardia’s colors combine to produce an amazing, throwback quality to the current timeline. The use of Ben-Day dots and a washed out, weathered palette call back to classic newsprint comics. I am thankful that as loose and hectic as the artwork is for most of this book, letters by Jared K. Fletcher are clean and tight. The action scenes beg second and third passes to catch everything that’s happening, but the script is perfectly legible and easy to follow.

The last couple years have been fantastic for horror in comics. With so many awesome titles currently on the shelves, it’s easy to fall back on standard tropes and safe clichés. The Gravediggers Union has some of that worn-in, comfortable feel, while simultaneously delivering a fresh take.

The Gravediggers Union, Vol 1 TPB collects The Gravediggers Union #1-5, published by Image Comics, released 02 May 2018. Story, flashback art,  and cover by Wes Craig, art by Toby Cypress, color by Niko Guardia, letters by Jared K. Fletcher.

Brendan M. Allen

Brendan Allen has probably had more jobs than you would reasonably believe. Dog trainer? He’s done it. Flooring contractor? You bet! EMT? Army NBC specialist? Road dog for a Celtic rock band? Yes, yes, and och aye! Now he reads comics and writes about them. It's a rough gig. You can follow Brendan on Twitter @SaintAmish where he mostly tweets about comic books and cystic fibrosis awareness.