Joe Coogan is a private eye with a bit of a problem. See, one morning he wakes up hurting, feeling the pain of a rough night he had the evening before. But it’s not just a hangover Joe feels. Something really nasty happened to Joe that night, something that has literally resulted in a near-death experience. Near death? Ha! More than that. Rigor mortis has already begun settling in. Joe is dead, and determined to find the person who killed him.
That’s the plot of the new Steve Niles / Bernie Wrightson book Dead, She Said. Niles and Wrightson present an interesting story, complete with a lot of obvious questions. Such as, how in the world is Coogan able to walk around in the real world despite his deadly injuries? What happened to him the night before? Who killed the man who would be the prime suspect in Coogan’s murder? And who in the world would do something like that to the detective?
Niles’s story is interesting and darkly amusing. Spooky as it is, Coogan’s situation is also pretty funny. How does a man deal with finding out he’s dead? With a mix of innocent befuddlement and the intense need to find his murderer, that’s how.
It’s a nice twist on a classic film noir setup. Readers basically already know the end of this bizarre story; now we want to fill in the middle pieces and figure out just what in the world happened to Coogan.
Bernie Wrightson’s art is perfect for this story. The legendary cartoonist delivers the level of work that readers have come to expect from him. His characters have a certain amount of depth of inner life that few other cartoonists present. Coogan looks like a man whose life has been one challenge after another. He’s a man who seems to have been fighting a never-ending battle just to keep his head above water. Wrightson draws Coogan wonderfully as a man always on the lookout for his enemies, a man ready on the defensive.
Wrightson’s also great, of course, with the blood and guts scenes. We see Coogan’s guts hanging out in all their glory while he’s lying in his blood-covered bed, and a later scene shows an even gorier event. Wrightson clearly loves this stuff after all these years based on the loving attention he pays to the gruesome details.
But Wrightson’s at his best as he draws the subplot of the book, in which we see a family meet a nasty end while on a camping trip. Wrightson’s depiction of the kids and parents are heartbreaking. We know these people are going to meet a dark and horrible end – this is a horror comic after all – but Wrightson heightens the horror by making them seem real. He draws these people to seem so real and so emotionally connected to their fellow family members that it makes the eventual horror of their situation even more horrific.
I can’t wait to see where this series goes. Niles and Wrightson are doing solidly wonderful work in this book.