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God of Comics – Songs for the Dead #3

God Of Comics, Reviews

October 12, 2017

Songs for the Dead #3 (Necromancer Press)

We start these reviews off by talking about how necromancers get a bad rap. We do it because it’s thematically important to understand this comic and the driving force behind it, that of a necromancer trying to be good and reminding people that no school of magic is inherently evil, but people can be and magic gives people the ability to do evil on a much larger scale than they might otherwise be able to.

So, why single out necromancers among all magicians as being especially bad? Well, one answer might be that necromancy plays around with death – the one force that people never feel comfortable with and are afraid of because sooner or later, every single one of us is going to die.

Another might be that so much of western culture comes from various mistranslations of the Hebrew Bible, and that book calls out necromancy specifically as being bad (it also calls out soothsayers, but people like to know the future and consider that more of a game).

But let’s talk about that for a moment: the first biblical figure to go on an actual crusade against witches and necromancers and soothsayers was King Saul, who is generally not looked upon as either the smartest or kindest figures in the Old Testament. He’s kind of a dick, really, and when push comes to shove and his life starts falling apart because of his dickishness, he disguises himself and goes to a necromancer for aid.

Now, he lies to her about his identity and makes her raise the prophet Samuel, which she didn’t want to do and advises him against doing. There’s wisdom to her – she’s using her power responsibly, but Saul is a dick and he mangles himself badly because of his own actions, yet there’s still some blame that gets thrown on the necromancer who did nothing wrong.

And it’s relevant here because we have an order of religious nutjobs who move into a town and start torturing innocent people for no reason other than their religious dogma. They get people to turn on one another, using a necromancer themselves because they are – like all dogmatic zealots – hypocrites. In between mangling people for standing up to them or asking questions or doing anything other than waiting for their turn to be tortured, the actual necromancer moves back into town reminds these townfolk of their history.

She defeats the forces of ignorance and evil not with magic, but knowledge and reminding people of their inherent decency and history of standing up against tyranny.

Yes, it’s that kind of comic. You really should be reading this.

The deft wordplay and storytelling is all done by series creators Michael Christopher Heron and Andrea Fort, while cover art is done by Nick Robles and interior art is all Sam Beck. The whole package is a lot of fun and the trilogy has been a blast to read. If you’d like to give it a spin, you can head over Necromancer Press and check it out for yourself by clicking here.

It’s good times. You should do the thing.

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God of Comics – Songs for the Dead #2

God Of Comics, Reviews

October 6, 2017

Songs for the Dead #2 (Necromancer Press)

When dungeon masters and players go out for drinks, you’ll sometimes hear stories about old campaigns. The classics, the funny, the horror stories, the ambitious. We’re all a bit hammy and we like to share, but it’s moments like these that give birth to legends: Old Man Henderson, Los Tiburon, and even today’s recounting.

There’s the apocryphal tale of a dungeon master who was running two campaigns. The second was a classic group of adventurers following in the wake of a necromancer who was overthrowing kingdoms with his army of the dead, deposing kings and destroying nations. Their mission was to undo the damage caused by the necromancer, to restore old kings to their thrones, execute those the necromancer had put into power, and show those they were helping how to protect themselves from necromancers in the future.

Pretty standard stuff, right?

Assuming the necromancer is evil.

That was the trick: the dungeon master’s first campaign was a solo adventure where a necromancer was overthrowing corrupt regimes, educating people and letting them form their own governments, lending them the protection of the dead for the betterment of the living. The final part of both campaigns was the heroes catching up to the necromancer as he was getting ready to die; although he had the power and knew the rite to become a lich, he was choosing to die knowing he had lived a good life.

But then he looked out on the world, wanting one last look at his good works before death. He saw the corrupt nobles he had overthrown back in power and the good people he had liberated being executed, tortured, and imprisoned. The corpses he had lent the good people put down and interred in such a way that they would never rise again. Everything he had done – all he had worked on to make the world better – undone by people who assumed he was evil because he was a necromancer.

When the “heroes” finally caught up with him they expected a massive battle, a thrilling climax. Instead, they found an embittered old man, weeping for what the world had lost and the evil those heroes had put back in place.

I wish I knew the dungeon master that had run these campaigns. I want to shake his or her hand.

Last week we reviewed the first issue of the indie comic Songs for the Dead. We really liked it so we kept reading, with the cute naive necromancer pretending to be a bard and the more worldly warrior/rogue friend she’s made. This issue sees them looking for a secret group of necromancers that have removed themselves from society precisely because people think they’re evil, all while being pursued by a group of religious zealots that like to execute necromancers because they think they’re evil.

It is almost impossible for us not to like this comic. Created and written by Michael Christopher Heron and Andrea Fort, whose dialogue and pacing are spot on. Art by Sam Beck, who has an eye for keeping his inks and colors grounded until the magic enters and then cuts loose. And, of course. The rather lovely cover art of one Nick Robles. This one is going to be tricky to find, but if you are interested you should click here and nab yourself a copy. It’s well worth your time and cash.

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God of Comics – Songs for the Dead #1

God Of Comics, Reviews

September 29, 2017

Songs for the Dead #1 (Necromancer Press)

Necromancers get a bad rap.

It’s that whole death thing. People get weirded out by it, scared by it. The inescapable knowledge that, someday, you will die. Necromancers have power over death, over this strange force that one day takes every living thing.

Asimov used to do these thematic anthology collections and one of them was for wizards. He started the book with an original essay in which he looked at the word wizard and what it meant. Wiz, obviously, is wise, but the suffix -ard is tricky. Its use shows up in words like coward or drunkard, and there are variants like braggart. They all mean to do something to excess.

Given this definition, a wizard is someone who has taken wisdom to excess. A person who can control the world and reshape it to his or her whims. People fear wizards because of that. Apply that same thinking to necromancers, though – a wizard who specializes in the realm of death – and you’re looking at someone who is going to be shunned and hunted for what they know and what they can do.

But necromancy isn’t bad, per se. It’s no more intrinsically evil than any other kind of magic. A politician can use charisma and words to build laws that save lives or destroy them. An economist can use their knowledge of trade and currency to build a better world or ruin it. The use of a discipline says more about the user than the discipline.

And that brings us to Songs of the Dead.

Songs for the Dead is an independent comic about a necromancer who doesn’t believe that she’s evil. She was shunned by her parents for her power and left her village, and all she wants to do is be a hero like the ones she’s read about. She’s naive and sheltered and more than a little clueless, but the power resides within her and she could do great things… provided she survives long enough or isn’t enslaved first.

Her name is Bethany and she’s a lone traveler looking for work and to make a name for herself. She decides that taking a job to find a missing noble’s son is the best way to go about doing that, but she’s still learning and still alone and the world is a little more vast and complex than she knows it is. She’s going to need help to do the things she wants.

That help is going to come from an unexpected source.

Songs for the Dead was created and is written by Michael Christopher Heron and Andrea Fort, with art by Sam Beck and covers by Nick Robles. It is definitely worth hunting down, and you can find out more about it and Necromancer Press by clicking here.

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