A caper tale with a twist: Jericho Way is an architect-turned-thief who finds out that he can tap into his past lives, using the abilities of people he’s been before! There’s no way this can possibly be anything but good, right?! Here, have a review!
Previously in The Resurrectionists: Not a darn thing. New series!
WHAT THE HECK IS AN ANSWERER?
While it opens with a woman named Lena displaying the ability Resurrectionists have to use the talents they had gained in previous lives, it primarily follows Jericho Way and his compatriot Mac surveying and then stealing a portion of the Egyptian Book of the Dead from a museum display. While sleeping, Jericho has a dream about his previous life that oddly parallels his current one—one in which he was an Ancient Egyptian tomb architect named Tao, who was betrayed by his employer, and watched his pregnant wife Maya die in his arms as they attempted to flee. After waking from his dream, he finds he can read the Ancient Egyptian text and also meets the modern day version of his Ancient Egyptian wife.
There are a lot of fun implications here to play around with, a lot of which Fred Van Lente goes into in an interview at the end of the book. With the concept of reincarnation comes the idea of gender fluidity—that a person can be many genders and sexualities over several lifetimes—and it’s an idea that Van Lente is fully ready to play with. He also apparently did some basic research into the culture of Ancient Egypt and pulled concepts like “Answerers” (a play off of the Ancient Egyptian shabti dolls, or figurines meant to be servants for a deceased individual in the afterlife) and “Resurrectionists” (grave robbers hired to desecrate and loot a tomb in order to ruin a person’s afterlife) from the Book of the Dead text itself. In addition, Van Lente uses colloquial terms and concepts in both the modern day and Ancient Egyptian portions of the book which gives it a relatable flair, citing that “it’s not like we’re hearing “raw-sound”; the literal lines are quote-unquote translated into English for the comic anyway. So why not make it sound colloquial?” Makes sense.
That said, you don’t really see all that in this book, at least not yet. Had one just read the main book and skipped the interview, it would have read just like a heist story with a reincarnation plot-twist. While of course one wouldn’t dump all of what Van Lente described in his interview into the first issue of the book, it would have been nice to at least have had some of it. Thus far, there has been nothing to really suggest gender fluidity—save for Lena’s brief fight scene where she tapped into two male former selves—and what exactly an Answerer and Resurrectionist are exactly had to either be explained in the interview or looked up elsewhere. The bit where the Ancient Egyptian characters speak colloquially felt more like sloppy writing and, again, had the interview not been read it would have just been assumed that the writer didn’t know what he was doing when it came to dialogue.
While all these concepts are great, it asks too much of the reader to have to go out of their way to read an accompanying interview or look up what an Answerer is on their own in order to understand what’s happening. It’s really unfortunate because all of Van Lente’s ideas for upcoming books sound really fun but in the book itself, it just sounds gimmicky without it’s accompanying footnotes.
A lot of the artwork in this book looks a little like Disney concept art, which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds and works well for the more physical sequences of the book itself. Maurizio Rosenzweig does a fairly good job of tackling the action portions, like Lena’s fight scene or Jericho and Mac’s caper antics, as well as being capable of rendering the quieter portions, such as tender moments between Tao and Maya. Moreno Dinisio helps scenery come alive with his colors and gives many of the female characters a “classic Hollywood picture” lighting feel, doing a lot with little more than shadowing. The art would easily translate into panels one would present to film execs in order to sell a movie idea, which somehow works here.
What’s nice to see in the overall artwork of this book is how varied and different characters are. There is no real cookie-cutter body type we typically see in comics. Jericho Way is not a picture perfect underwear model. He looks like a regular Joe. Lena is not a drop-dead-gorgeous Black-Widow type. She looks like a masculine woman who could break a man in two. All the “extras” are made up of all sorts of body types—tall, short, skinny, rotund, black, white, brown, male, female, etc.—and it looks like the artists actually took the time to draw and color each one instead of merely copy and pasting the same body type onto every background character.
What’s even better about their attention to various body types is how they chose to render Maya, Tao’s pregnant wife. Often, artists like to skip drawing pregnant women altogether, preferring to show them instead as being very early into their pregnancy or using them as the butt end of some visual joke (the exception being maybe The Walking Dead). They are very rarely shown as being heavy into their pregnancy without a comedic implication attached. Here, though, Rosenzweig and Dinisio managed to make a beautiful, active, and not-at-all-visually-comical pregnant woman. Major credit is due to the art team for choosing to focus on the beautiful aspects of a pregnancy, not just the comical aspects or ignoring it altogether.
OVERALL: DON’T MAKE ME DO HOMEWORK
While Van Lente promises that The Resurrectionists will tackle the interesting implications that fictional reincarnation implies, none of it is seen in the book itself, instead hoping the reader will take the time to read the end interview or will do a bit of research on their own—something that really can’t be asked of an audience that might have other comics they want to read or lives to live. It’s an interesting book, though on it’s own it’s a bit on the gimmicky side. The art is fun and one can tell that the artists put a lot of love and care into making sure each and every person depicted—whether they be the main characters or just a random museum patron—had their own unique look, warts and all. It’s also refreshing to see a pregnant female character shown as being lovely, instead of being invisible or the brunt end of a joke. However, the art alone isn’t enough to really save the fact that I felt like I had to do some light extra reading just to understand what Van Lente was getting at. Overall, it’s a nice book, but it doesn’t deliver all it implies as quickly as it realistically should.