DYING IS EASY By Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds. Review.

DYING IS EASY By Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds

IDW Publishing, pb, £11.60

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

This graphic novel tells the story of Syd “Sh*t-Talk” Homes, a divorced ex-cop that left the force in less than happy circumstances. With time on his hands, he becomes a not terribly successful stand-up comedian, playing gigs in dive bars alongside others trying to become comedians, adapting episodes from his past life as stand up material.

It’s fair to say that Syd’s life isn’t really going the way he’d hoped it would, and when Carl Dixon, one of the comedians that he performs alongside, starts stealing their jokes and looks set to swap the backdrop of dive bars for TV sets, everyone starts complaining. One of his fellow comedians asks him how much he’d charge to kill Dixon – mostly in jest, but things quickly escalate, and Syd finds himself accused of murdering Dixon when he turns up dead. Syd must find the killer, overcome the prejudices that he hadn’t thought he had and dodge his former colleagues in the police force who are only too keen to put him away with minimal evidence.

The colour scheme in this graphic novel is fairly dark and muted throughout – the various dive bars, pawn shops and crummy apartments aren’t full of vibrant colours. This doesn’t mean that detail is missing from the characters and their surroundings, though. Martin Simmonds manages to make things appear pretty lifelike and gritty, imbuing life to the story being told.

The characters are all suitably flawed for such a setting – including drunkards, spoilt rich daughters of TV producers, barmaids and policemen with anger management issues. The artist makes the story flow well through the panes, using a combination of layouts – the standard left to right panes across single pages, the occasional double-page spread where action requires it, and different size panes, keeping the reader engaged throughout.

The hardcover edition I reviewed feels good and solid with a decent heft to not just the cover but the pages within.

This is a great tale told well through the medium of a graphic novel and looks and feels good. Hill’s writing is excellent, and it’s plain to see that he’s taking after his father (Stephen King) in being able to craft award-winning fiction in many different styles and genres.