THIS REVIEW OF ‘EUTHANAUTS’ #4 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Mickey Rivera. Euthanauts has taken our hands and guided us to a starry, silent place beyond the limits of possible knowledge. It’s shown us that death is a place, not a process, a separate mode of existence where only our pure selfhood survives, and a warm motherly light awaits us at the far end of a glowing chasm. Reinforced by a vibrant visual atmosphere and led through the dark by the stoney wit of writer Tini Howard, the young death-divers of Euthanauts chip away at the wall dividing life and death with a sometimes playful sense of discovery. With Euthanauts #4, things get decidedly more urgent.
Thalia Rosewood, Euthanauts‘ main protagonist, receives a big boost to her background story. Up until now we’ve know her as a funeral home receptionist who wistfully spent her time obsessing over death while tolerating the banal lunch chat of her so-called friends. After being smashed across the skull with a fire hydrant by dying research scientist Mercy Wolf, Thalia is passively swept up into Dr. Wolf’s decades-long efforts to discover what lies beyond that last heartbeat. Dr. Wolfe’s helpers, the calm and collected Gui and the spritely goth Circe, guide Thalia as she learns to dive in and out of the afterlife, all the while barely giving her time to catch her breathe.
Euthanauts #4 makes clear that Thalia now has a deeper understanding of what she needs to do and why, and the novelty of making contact with the deathspace has given way to an appetite for knowledge and aptitude. She sets out to find a way to help Dr. Wolf, who is now trapped in purgatory with psychotic and violent skeletal energy. Just as she seems to be getting a hold of things, Howard sends her spinning again, in ways which you’ll just have to read to find out.
Between Thalia’s game-changing self-discovery and an ending that will have you reaching for back-issues to make sure you saw what you saw, this installment feels like that brief, gut-punching moment at the top of a rollercoaster, just before the plunge. This is a pivotal issue for Euthanauts, and it’s pulled off quite gracefully.
The mechanics of traveling to the deathspace, as imagined by Howard, is more than just a matter of science. Elements of religion, psychology, and chaos magic get pulled in, as well. An institution as long-standing and influential as Death Itself deserves more than to be explained away by pure physics; Howard does it justice by preserving its mystery while emphasizing that the deathspace is no undiscovered realm that only a lucky few can access. Anyone with the right mindset (and maybe the right psychedelics) is a potential Euthanaut.
This odd mix of science, spirituality, and a sense of open experimentation gives Euthanauts a really unique feel. It draws from the outsider ethos and mind-over-matter aspects of Grant Morrison’s Invisibles but with a darker, more pessimistic angle befitting a comic published in this age of ideological conflict. The whole Euthanauts crew, including Thalia, give off a vibe of exploration and adventure by means of science and psychedelics, a vibe which is effectively interrupted by the end of this issue.
When given enough space, Robles and Howard pull off some brilliant sequencing tricks, with Robles providing some fantastic otherworldly imagery of the dark and vacant “deathspace”. Top prize for Euthanauts #4’s art has to go to colorist Eva De La Cruz for making this realm glow with dark iridescence, and for giving each character in these sequences their own particular light.
This issue continues Euthanauts’ strangeness and beauty. It will move you, shock you, and likely dazzle you with its art and shine.
Black Crown/IDW Publishing/$3.99
Written by Tini Howard.
Art by Nick Robles.
Colors by Eva De La Cruz.
Letters by Aditya Bidikar.
8.5 out of 10