The Acceptance And Rejection Of Death Itself: Reviewing ‘The Many Deaths Of Laila Starr’ #5

More often than not there are many people out there that when someone mentions comic books, their first thought is superheroes or at least something adjacent with lots of action. They might think about character beats or depth, but just like most of the live-action adaptations, there is a lot of action to be seen. Sometimes it can be easy for many to overlook a comic or story that is more philosophical and dialogue-heavy over a lot of heavy action.

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is easily one of the definitive comic book experiences that should be read by everyone, comic fans, and non-comic fans alike. There is little doubt that this will be one of the series whose collected form will find a home on many, many shelves and will be talked about for years to come in the same revered tones reserved for the all-time classic comic book stories of the ages.

This was a lot of words to really speak to just how powerful what Ram V, Filipe Andrade, Inês Amaro, and Deron Bennet have created is, but there is one word that works just as well: wow. Just, wow.

There are fantastical elements within this book from the gods to the personification of concepts and inanimate objects but from the first issue to the last it’s truly been an ongoing conversation. A conversation about the ever-entwining concepts and reality of life and death.

There is death all over this book, which at first makes sense because one of the characters is the former goddess of death. There are accidental deaths and life cut short deaths and folks reaching the very end of their lifeline deaths, all of them tragic in their own way. Yet, as we fully see in the final issue there is something more connected to each of those deaths, a lesson that has to be learned about the nature of life and death.

Just like death and the human condition, there is a finality to this series as it has a pretty definitive ending which is very refreshing in a world where many of the popular comic series are open-ended forever running things.

For five issues the work of Andrade, Amaro, and Bennet has shifted and morphed to fit the particular step of the journey that each issue calls for while always wowing and adding such weight and personality to this world and story. The constant shifting of light and dark within the colors, like the shifting between life and death, has been a trademark across the series and just adds to the overall theme and qualities of the world being depicted.

While the words carry a lot of emotional weight to them, it’s the art that truly helps give them the weight that makes them stick with us. We can see and feel the pain and heartache and loss and growth and hope and everything else that Laila and Darius and others feel through these pages. As things feel heavy in the beginning there are a lot of shadows and darker scenes, but as we begin to reach the final message about life and death begin to take on a much brighter tone and we reach the avenue where grief and hope meet and coexist.

Andrade’s paneling work has just been stellar within this series and continues in this issue, with the combined use of the white bordering and the shifts between closeups and constant changing of size and shapes of panels to fit what is needed for that page. There is a gorgeous spread that showcases Laila’s arrival to this issue, which speaks volumes about the overall issue if one just takes the moment to fully drink it all in.

All along what Bennet has achieved with the lettering, never settling for the same style when approaching some of the important caption/dialogue work, is just as stunning and defining within this series. We’ve seen smoke bordered captions, blocky-looking ones to go with the narrative of a grief-stricken building, and more. In this issue, we get very formal-looking caption boxes, that fit the idea that this last installment is a story being told about these last moments between Death/Laila and the man she’s been connected to all these years, Darius Shah.

Not to mention the gorgeous bits of poetry that are dotted throughout, taking up whole panels to offer words that strongly resonate at this moment where the series to protagonists seek a final resolution to their conjoined journey. These poems are tied to what was mentioned above about Andrade’s work speaking volumes, as Laila carries the book of these poems as she arrives at the beginning of the issue.

Truly despite all the words that I’ve written in this and the previous four reviews, there is no way to truly do this series justice. It’s a thing that must be experienced. If you haven’t already, click out of here now and either pop over to the ComiXology link below or visit your local comic shop. It will be one of the best decisions you can make.

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr #5 is out now from BOOM! Studios

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