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Deadliner is a Macabre Story About Creative Burnout

Enter the surreal and macabre story of Deadliner.

Are you looking for a thought-provoking page-turner for your next comic book experience? If like me, you seek out stories about writers, then Deadliner is the comic for you.

The setup for Deadliner is simple but very effective; an author with the onset of a huge writer’s block. However, with each turn of the page, the story reveals layer upon layer of emotion. I would say a larger portion of its readership will find the subject very relatable, as it is a comic for comic creators. It reminds me a lot of when Stephen King writes about authors; this story doesn’t reach the supernatural levels of horror that King often does, but it does present a case for the limits and limitlessness of the humour mind being a very macabre tale.

Deadliner by Donna A. Black, Rob Jones, and Dave Cook
Deadliner by Donna A. Black, Rob Jones, and Dave Cook

Cook uses the early established anchor of writer’s block to explore a handful of other subjects, among which is the subject of grieving. This is done via an examination of social media and how a ‘famous person’ is grieved by fans and peers alike. It reads very much like a one-man play. Themes of imprisonment haunt the central character throughout the piece, whether it be imprisonment of life or work of the self.

Black’s art is reminiscent of both Ben Templesmith and David Mack. It has that abstract, collage-type quality to it. The colour work, also by Black, lends itself perfectly to the reader feeling the same levels of uneasiness as the central character. Within the abstract art style, Black plays more strict with panel layouts. Ranging from 3 to 6-panel pages. What stands out about these is the stark white panel borders that play into the themes of imprisonment. There are effective moments when the panel border maybe be jagged or broken completely when the main character has something invade his headspace. This is all tied together by Jones’ lettering. Whether it is when we have hashtags floating around an image or having the heading of a brochure feel more like an instruction for our lead character, it all adds a layer of effect to the storytelling. There are a few instances where a panel is just bold fonts. Again either breaking a train of thought or ramping up the psychological thriller of it all.

Deadliner by Donna A. Black, Rob Jones, and Dave Cook
Deadliner by Donna A. Black, Rob Jones, and Dave Cook

Deadliner ticks a lot of boxes in regards to being new reader-friendly. The story is a done-on-one story that is both enjoyable to read and carries an impact. It is going to appeal to fans of short stories, whether they be in the form of movies or novels. Deadliner also harkens back to the days of titles such as True Suspense Comics or Weird Mystery Tales. A three-act structure neatly concluded between the covers with no need for a wider continuity. Anyone who has or is experiencing any of the subjects tackled in the story: creative burnout, stress, and anxiety would be well worth taking a break and reading this comic. It really does offer light at the end of the tunnel.

Writer: Dave Cook. Artist/Colourist: Donna A. Black. Letters: Rob Jones

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