Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #43 by Drew Barth
The Black Stairs Label
Roughly a year ago, DC introduced their new imprint: DC Black Label. This was their newest excursion into more mature themed books set within the mainline DC Universe separate from their Vertigo imprint.
With Vertigo’s dissolution earlier this year, there was no one location for those mature-rated DC stories outside of the DC Universe. The DC Black Label imprint was created as a new place for those mature DC Universe stories, and with the recent publication of The Last God by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Riccardo Federici, an expansion of the imprint has begun.
DC has a legacy of fantasy series such as Camelot 3000, Demon Knights, and Books of Magic, but The Last God is a foray into high fantasy—complete with gods, god-slayers, and a history so vast and intricate that many characters in the series see it as mythology. The series itself centers on Cain Anuun, a plague from the dark gods that devastated the land, and the band of adventurers who fought the gods and saved the lands for all eternity.
Of course, that’s mostly a big lie.
Like many of the best recent fantasy series in comics, The Last God is predicated on characters taking credit for heroic acts they had little to nothing to do with—even more interesting when they build that lie into their own power. This is what Johnson and Federici focus this first issue on. Not only did the god-slayer lie about slaying the great, evil god, he became that evil god and is beginning to spread that once vanquished plague. It reads like a perfectly-plotted D&D campaign where one of the players at the table ultimately is revealed to have been the villain the whole time.
That relationship to gaming tropes is part of the fun of many of these more recent fantasy series. The Last God, while not straying too far from the fantasy we know, still brings in new bits of world-building and character archetypes that make the series feel like the best campaign you haven’t played yet.
One of the main things that makes The Last God so interesting is that it isn’t a DC story, for now. As part of DC’s Black Label imprint that has been exclusively centered on many of the biggest DC characters, it’s hard to look at The Last God without trying to see where the rest of the DC Universe could potentially fit into it. Could Vandal Savage be waiting around the next rock? Will the camera pull back to reveal the devastated earth of Kamandi? Or perhaps this will be the final origin story of the Phantom Stranger? With twelve more issues to come, it’s impossible to tell where the rest of the story could go, but based on this first issue, it’s going to be interesting regardless.
Get excited. There’s always more.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.