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First Look: Dying Is Easy by Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds

First Look: Dying Is Easy by Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds

Meet Syd "Sh*t-Talk" Homes, a disgraced ex-cop turned bitter stand-up comic turned... possible felon? Carl Dixon is on the verge of comedy superstardom and he got there the dirty way: by stealing jokes. He's got a killer act, an ugly past, and more enemies than punchlines. So when someone asks Syd Homes how much it would cost to have Dixon killed, Syd isn't surprised in the slightest. But, once he's accused, he's on the run and it's going to take all of his investigative chops to suss out the real killer before he gets caught.

Clifford, Dan, and Jed dive into this neon-colored mystery by Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds. Read their thoughts below.

The Mystery

Clifford says: It follows Sh*t-talk as he evades capture while he tries to prove his innocence. The resulting mayhem is part Kevin Smith and part Quentin Tarantino, presented in murky visuals reminiscent of what one would think an acid trip would have been.

Dan says: 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.

Jed says: What’s most enjoyable about Dying Is Easy is the mystery itself. Syd proves to be sharp and observant from the opening beats of the story, and the clues he gathers can always be seen on the page. Readers will probably find themselves flipping back and forth to confirm something that Syd had noticed earlier—and it’s really there. Mystery-solving types will enjoy this immensely.


The Art

Clifford says: Martin Simmonds’s linework and colors channel a mix of Bill Sienkiewicz and Duncan Fegredo, draped in loud neon colors that evoke the seediness of comedy clubs and strip bars. Daytime scenes are washed in a haze of golden yellow that perfectly captures uncomfortable hot tenement buildings that have never seen an air conditioner in its existence. [...] In Dying Is Easy, Simmonds’s art didn’t work well in fast-paced sequences. [...] Which is a shame, really, because Simmonds is simply brilliant.

Dan says: Martin Simmonds’ artistry enhances the dark tone right from the start. [...] 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.

Jed says: The art is done in a scratchy ink-pen style that manages to be just a bit hazy, but totally legible. The big action setpieces may be ultimately uninteresting, but they are definitely easy to follow. Faces are also drawn well, with the many offbeat characters Syd runs into being immediately recognizable. The art serves both the action and the dialogue well, and as mentioned earlier, hides clues that a reader might not notice right away. 


The Verdict

Clifford says: Dying Is Easy just didn’t seem to hit the right notes. It could have used maybe another 40 pages to flesh out Sh*t-talk’s character. Is the book any good? I can’t say it’s one of my favorites, but it’s worth a read, if only for the ridiculous escapes and a twist ending that’s par for the course in good mystery novels. And for Joe Hill completists, it’s a definite must-buy.

Dan says: This was a blast to read. I’d recommend this for readers who love mysteries with a side of dry wit and humor. [...] 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.

Jed says: Dying Is Easy squanders its sleazy 1990s comedy club aesthetic for what turns out to be a perfectly good mystery. It’s enjoyable, but also a bit of a shame. For mystery fans who love the act of trying to solve the case as the story progresses, this is a worthy read.

Clifford is a content writer, musician, and caffeine fiend who co-hosts monthly comic book podcast.
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Dan has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night. 
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Jed has worked as an animator, web designer, and college instructor, but he continues to dream of writing for a living.
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[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the reviewers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our reviewers anyway.]

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