Good evening, readers,
I am stepping in this evening to present to you a review by Guest Minion Marc Nocerino. Coming up later this week will be a recap of the Heroes Convention from Sarah and Henry Covert, as well as some other surprises (once Sarah’s computer is brought back from the brink of apocalypse).
Now, if you will excuse me, since I have just finished reading Marc’s review myself, I think I will head on over to the Happy Undertaker site. It sounds really interesting.
Until we meet again,
When I first got the assignment to review a web-comic, I thought to myself: well this should be easy. I’ll just concentrate on character, dialog, continuity, story, and art. Clearly, I had no idea what Drazen Kozjan’s The Happy Undertaker had in store for me.
The first three criteria almost don’t apply here. The only truly recurring character is the titular Undertaker, a cute and creepy little fellow who whistles to himself contentedly amidst a variety of macabre settings and incidents. He’s infused with a sort of sardonic glee, and I love it.
There is literally no dialog whatsoever; only a handful of strips have any writing at all over the course of its four year run. Kozjan expertly uses the expressions of his characters to take the place of dialog. He proves the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, telling his tales through artwork that is simultaneously quirky, beautiful, creepy, and very evocative.
As for continuity, most of the strips are self-contained. There have only been a few story arcs that spanned any length, and the longest of those was only four strips before returning to the usual “one tale per strip” framework.
But those stories… they are clever. Kozjan blends cultural icons, fairy tales, literary characters, and genre references to create his fun and somewhat disturbing vignettes. There is a bit of a morality-play feel to some of them, and the Undertaker can come across as the arbiter of Karma to some rather wicked secondary characters, but it never gets “preachy” and the overall mood remains light-hearted despite the darkness.
Kozjan’s artwork is both astounding and accessible, with a great retro feel to it. Everything from his characters, to his buildings, to the stuff just “in the background” is dripping with personality. His eye for color is nothing short of brilliant, and he uses this tool not just aesthetically but efficiently as well. If the character’s expressions replace the dialog, then the palette substitutes for description, subtext, and mood.
To me, experiencing The Happy Undertaker is more akin to admiring a painting than reading a comic. I really am amazed at how succinctly Drazen Kozjan can tell stories without using a single word. Overall, I give The Happy Undertaker 3.666 out of 5 tentacles. This would never be my ‘go-to’ when I’m in the mood for a traditional web-comic; but on a dark stormy day or late in the evening as I sip an Absinthe, this blend of morbid comedy, beautiful illustration, and clever micro-stories would make for a pleasant companion.
Marc Nocerino – Guest Minion