Near Death is pretty good. The setup is great and the art is high caliber (yep, I just made that pun about a book that involves an assassin) but the structure is just a little too “and now comes the part where they’re gonna do this.” I wanted to love the book. It has guns and assassins, redemption and the art style reminded me of something Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done. But I was more caught up in seeing the obvious outline of the story roll out than I was caught up in the actions of the characters.
The writer, Jay Faerber has a pretty impressive list of credentials including some time writing for TV but ultimately, that was a the failure of the book to me: it felt like a TV show that I’d seen already. Not a TV show that already existed but one that should have or could have existed in the 80s – maybe McGuyver or something a little more modern like Human Target (yep, was also a comic book). Each issue felt like it had a contrived way that the main character happened upon a new person to save, the section where he rethinks his life and how that ties directly to his current problem and the twist ending how he makes it all Cosby-Show-better in the end.
Two key failures in the story were that Markham, the protagonist’s origin story was crammed into the first chapter of the book and that the main character’s only kryptonite is that he used to be an assassin – he’s too perfect. One section of the book that made me gut laugh was how Markham was able to carry a large hunk of metal in the form of a gun in his running shorts and how Faerber then went on for the rest of the page talking about how Markham had perfected a technique of running to make that work. It’s just too silly and does not seem to understand that it is.
Like I said above, Near Death is pretty good. All said and done, it’s an incredible alternative to the weakly (pointing out the intentional spelling for the grammar police) flood of capes books. But it’s just too easy for me to continue reading.