Behind The Panels
Comic Book Creators Interviews
Story and Art: David Lapham
January 2002 Printing (SC)
Review By: John M. Scrudder
I loved David Lapham’s Stray Bullets…
So I was super excited when I found the TPB of Murder Me Dead. David Lapham’s nine issue noir series about a harrowing tale of love and murder!
What a fun book! It’s not the best I’ve ever read, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a project of passion that David did to pay homage to noir films from the 1930’s to the mid 50’s.
The story is like those films of old. Over the top actors (convincing, nonetheless), and a very, very low budget. Lot’s of smoke, piano players, a few bullets, some of affairs, and a Death which open the story. It’s all there, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
David’s artwork lends itself nicely to the genre. He had a lot of preparation while doing Stray Bullets, so this feels like second nature to him but it’s not. There’s something missing - there’s a bit of levity with the artwork that I feel shouldn’t be there. When I’m reading the story the images don’t always coincide perfectly with the words. I think David Lapham is a really nice guy who lives vicariously through his characters - but what creator doesn’t live vicariously through his creations - I mean, that’s part of the gig, right?
The beginning introduces us to the main character (Steven Russel) staring at his dead wife hanging from a ceiling fan. Mr. Russel doesn’t look particularly phased. The pacing is a bit rough rolling into the story. It picks up and moves at a steady pace but the story has a few faults in it and at least one tiny lit flub (who liked who in High School?) but it’s easily overlooked. The long Con is the play in this book - the first two chapters sort of drag along setting up the exposition, but it pays off in chapter 3-5 when the play goes into full swing
In chapter 6 the Steven Russel goes to prison. This is where the story falls apart but also rings true in some of the aspects of the insanity of the relationship. I mention the latter only because I’ve been through something similar myself. Now, no one got killed in my instance, but things got insanely intense - so it isn’t hard for me to believe how hung up Steven is on Tara (the long con player and love interest for Steven) and Vice Versa - I’ve experienced it first hand and I know how dangerous it can be.
The last few chapters of the book in my eyes just sort of fizzle. I remember from the introduction that David Lapham explains that just because something has a twist in the end it doesn’t necessarily make it clever or good - in spite of this, there is a twit in the end of this book - and though it may be viewed as clever, it’s ultimately unnecessary if a little thought is put into it.
So, for me - the book sort of limps to a close. The chaos and emotions of the two main characters has boiled over so many times that by the final time it feels a little like a “Don’t cry wolf” type of situation.
I still enjoy this story. It’s a lot of fun and Lapham has a great time with it.
I bought this book because of my love of Stray Bullets (which I would love for David to finish someday!), Murder Me Dead has a place on my bookshelf right now - whether it is permanent or not remains to be seen, but I need to go back and reevaluate Stray Bullets now.