The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V (writer) and Filipe Andrade (art)
I really like this comic book by Ram V and Filipe Andrade: It tells the story of a man who has to meet with the former Goddess of Death once every decade or so. When a baby, prophesized to one day create immortality, was born, Laila Starr lost her job as Goddess of Death. She is returned to earth in a mortal body of a woman who just died and seeks out the baby to kill it. But with the baby in her hands in the hospital nursery, she is unable to do the unspeakable. Pursued by police at the hospital, she makes her escape. At the end of issue one (of five), Laila dies for the first time.
The multiple lives of Laila and the baby—Darius—are intertwined in this story. We get the story of Darius as a twenty-year-old in issue three enjoying, first, being in love and then, suffering his first breakup. With issues four and five, we see him get older by many years, until he’s an old man in issue five. Each issue features a run-in between Darius and Laila, with their conversations building in intensity. The tension increasing for the reader also builds every issue, as we anticipate their next meeting.
The comic is ultimately a thoughtful piece on life and death and memory. Laila, speaking to a talking crow, tries to understand how humans view death: “I don’t understand it, though. This mortal preoccupation with death. The ceremony, the gravity of the ritual.” The crow answers, “It’s the one thing that is theirs. Not Death itself, but what you leave behind. They burn the body because the soul is immortal. But it is reincarnated into another cycle. The only thing that marks each lifetime then are the memories left behind. To be witnessed by someone else and to be remembered when you are gone. These are the things that belong to mortals.”
The comic has great conversations like this. Not long after this exchange, for example, Laila runs into the young Darius who has run away from home to attend a funeral for a friend. They have a serious, thoughtful discussion. As Laila tells Darius after her conversation with the crow, “No one really goes away as long as they are remembered.” Darius promises not to forget his friend and runs off into the crowd.
This is a beautiful comic with great art and brilliant colors of purples and pinks. It’s remarkable just to look at this book. But the story is good, too. Contemplative, yes, but there’s also an interesting plot as suspense is built up: What will happen as Darius grows up? Will Laila try to kill him again? How many times will their lives cross paths? How will Laila experience life in the flesh? Where will it all end? Will Laila get her “job” back?
Along with the dazzling art and contemplative passages, the five-issue comic also includes interesting points-of-view. In issue three, for example, part of the story is told by a cigarette! It, too, passes away quickly, like life, and like those who die and are cremated, it goes up in smoke. I highly recommend this thoughtful, suspenseful comic.