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The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (review)—“Wash away your worries”

Author: Ram V

Illustrator: Filipe Andrade

Boom! Comics, April 2021

HEAT UNDULATES OFF flat surfaces outside as cigarette smoke curls between rooms inside. Everything hums. Inanimate forces, places, objects have lives after all one decides after a few moments in the berry-hued THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR, being the adventures of Death, capital D, incarnated or reincarnated in time in the form of a lovely young woman on a mission, though too full of herself to live very long, thus the curious title. I was drawn in at once by the fabulously vibrant art in slanting sunlit colors by Filipe Andrade, and by author Ram V, who deserves attention for his awesome imagination incubating divinities as in this case Life and Death conversing on a high balcony overlooking a heat-stroked metropolis like old pals.

The story is desultory, the way a river edges back and forth through a delta before reaching the sea. In the end the goal is maybe abandoned, or revised, or forgotten for a while, no need to say or a way to know where fate leads. Laila Starr is not ruthless enough to accomplish her end above all else. She dabbles. On those occasions when she has her goal in hand, what she came for is right there, she fumbles, thinks about it, and suddenly dies before she intended to just because that is what happens to creatures, and things and places around her.

According to the narrative, though, we only intrude on the drama toward the final moments. In each incarnation each issue she looks the same. The time period moves forward. For some years anyway in between she is simply there among us, wandering, searching a little and bewondered as if she is always learning and growing. She makes a worthy and haunting companion.

The art here must be experienced. Globs of color melt into throbbing movement. Alternate covers by David Mack make a special treat. This incarnation of talent deserves to be preserved behind glass like a butterfly on a pin, both dead and alive.