Death Comes to Dillinger: Western style Horror

Another great Wizard World find was Death Comes to Dillinger, a horror/western. James Patrick, the writer, was a person I was quite familiar with from being a member of several of the same comic message boards. (That sounds incredibly geeky!) He did some online comic strips years ago that I enjoyed reading, and I’d heard about this series for awhile but never had a chance to pick it up.

One of the more interesting things about this new age of comics and how it relates to the Internet and vice versa is that you feel you actually know these people. I’ve probably read posts from James for five or six years now, and you get the sense you know these people. In actuality, I’ve never met him and I don’t even believe we ever communicated in a message board thread. That has its perks, since I actively sought out the book, which made it an easier find for me. Participating in these comic groups can have its advantages.

None of this is really the point, I guess. Death Comes to Dillinger is a great book. It’s a great-looking book. It’s got a great story. It’s got moments of fantastic dialogue, and it even has some iconic images that just capture your attention and stay with you. Death on a horse… riding into town. There’s your movie poster right there.

The book doesn’t waste any time with setup. Death. Picture the Grim Reaper in a cowboy outfit is riding into town on his demonic-looking horse, ready to collect his next soul. He arrives on page three and within a few more pages you know the whole setup of the book.

Death comes to town (the town of Dillinger, in this case) has a seat at the bar and orders up a whiskey while he waits for his pocket watch (which indicates how long his victim has left) to go off so he can claim his next soul.

The townspeople don’t know who Death is looking for, but they’ve heard the rumors about what’s happened in other towns. They know this isn’t a creature that can be bargained with. This isn’t a creature that’s going to leave without claiming what is rightfully his. So if you or the person you love is about to have their number called, what would you do?

The book continues with the main character seeking a way to stop Death from claiming its intended victim. Does Death need a certain person to be successful, or does it just need any “body?” Can you bargain with it? Can you beat it? I tore through the book as quickly as I could because I wanted to know how it ended, and then I read it again.

The story propels you forward, but the visuals make you want to stay on the page and stare. Se7enhedd (do you have any idea what this name does to my spell-check??) has created one of the most visually disturbing characters in comic books. The Joker can look scary if he’s done right, but he can also look like a circus clown. Venom had his moments until they made him look like a slobbering fool. I don’t think there’s any way you can dumb down a skeleton in a cowboy costume, complete with hat and six-shooters. That decrepit, skeletal hand reaching for its whisky and the toothy smile and hollow eyes? Just, wow. You don’t want this thing waiting at the bar for you.

The artist paints a portrait of a town that seems to have already lost a lot and isn’t ready for more pain. The lush backgrounds and color palate used present a visual world unique from a lot of the books on the racks today.

This collected edition features the two-part original series and some behind-the-scenes sketches and story-making processes that are always enjoyable reads for anyone with a love of the craft.

The first issue of the follow-up to this book, Death and the Man Who Would Not Die, is out now and will be four parts. If your comic shop doesn’t carry it, go to to get the goods.