Last month, I read the fourth issue of The Many Deaths of Laila Starr while sitting in my friend’s car zooming down a highway. She was telling me her boba order when I turned a page and made a sound that was two parts anguish and one part shock. My friend asked what happened, and I sadly shared that a building had died of grief, and it was very tragic. It turns out I don’t have the skill that Ram V does to make someone care about a collapsed empty building, but I certainly tried while blinking back tears in the passenger seat.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr depicts a lot of deaths. Profound deaths, tragic deaths, accidental deaths, natural deaths, abrupt deaths, vengeful deaths. Laila Starr spent eternity as the God of Death, but it wasn’t until she lost her job and became mortal that she understood the concept. She says in the second issue, “I’ve just learned today that those are different things… Dying and going away forever.” For such a heavy topic, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr mixes the profound melancholy moments with lighthearted fun and gorgeous art. Filipe Andrade’s illustrations capture expression and postures in exaggerated and playful ways. The character Bardhan absolutely looms over this young kid, Darius. Bardhan, from the perspective of an eight-year-old, is whimsical and surreal. But Darius sees more humanity in Bardhan than any of the adults employing him to tend their trees.
We check in on Darius’s life as he grows up through a series of encounters with Laila Starr, with both becoming very different people as time passes. His destiny is to put death out of a job since he is predicted to invent immortality. At first, she seeks him out to try to convince him not to do that. She’s not very good at recognizing him, however, and seems to say the things that cause him to get closer to this task. As we barrel towards the end, we experience the many highs and lows of human life, set against a backdrop of beautiful sunset hues.
We might wonder if we’ll see more about this from Ram V and Felipe Andrade. Well, the answer is no.
I saw this tweet before I read the fifth issue, but that still didn’t prepare me for the emotions I felt reading the last piece that ties everything together. It was excellent, perfect, and definitely an ending. If you want to know why you’ll have to check it out! You should do this anyway because it already belongs on every end-of-year ‘best of’ list.