Dying is Easy is a compelling, witty read. Its humor is dry and deadpan, much like what you’d expect in a stand-up comedy routine. The opening scene is Syd Homes, a former cop, doing a stand-up routine that drips with bitterness and dark humor. His jokes, delivered with deadpan humor, provides an insight into Syd before he ended up as a stand-up comic. Nobody ends up a stand-up comic without a sad life or a dark story to tell.
Martin Simmonds’ artistry enhances the dark tone right from the start. Immediately, a host of characters are introduced, all wanting Carl Dixon, a fellow stand-up comic on the cusp of mainstream success, dead or at least badly hurt, because he steals the best jokes of everyone around him. It doesn’t help that Carl also sleeps with a producer of a popular TV show in the 90s.
The rapid-fire exchange between the characters wanting to off Carl Dixon is comedy gold. The conversations feel authentic, almost as if you’re eavesdropping on the banter between comedians jealous at the success of another. I find myself laughing at the dark humor, even when things turn for the worse—because Carl Dixon was found dead, funnily enough, by drowning in three inches of water. Who dies by drowning in three inches of water? And Syd Homes becomes the prime suspect. As a disgraced cop, Syd wasn’t the best loved. In fact, quite a few would want his head on a platter. This complicates Syd’s life and he goes on the run to clear his name.
On his quest to find the real culprit, several suspects come up, including Gil and Mosley, a couple of black guys that work in their mother’s pawnshop, where Carl pawned stolen goods. The scene where Syd chases them is one of the most fun sequences in the graphic novel. There are several more exhilarating scenes as Syd goes on the lam. There are enough clever red herrings to keep the reader guessing who the real culprit is. And when all is revealed, I had to go back and review the artwork if there were clues I had missed on my first reading.
This is the great advantage of a graphic novel. A picture indeed paints a thousand words. And in this case, each panel provides a great avenue to showcase more with less, to show instead of to tell, and to leave some things unspoken for the reader. The story itself feels like the beginning of a series, a new character in the mold of Sherlock Holmes, only grittier. The ending opens the characters between Syd and Mosley in partnering up for more off-the-book detective work.
This was a blast to read. I’d recommend this for readers who love mysteries with a side of dry wit and humor. Joe Hill perfectly blends mystery and comedy in this graphic novel, whose title is derived from the quote, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” You can finish this in one sitting, because it’s one of those stories that keeps you turning the pages to find out the identity of the killer, but this deserves a second go round for the reader to fully appreciate the humor and the artwork and, perhaps, pick up clues that one missed on the initial reading.