Comics Time: Death Trap

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Death Trap

Lane Milburn, writer/artist

self-published, April 2010

112 pages

$12

Buy it from Lane Milburn

It feels good to see someone win a Xeric Grant whose work you’ve already been following, then to discover that the work they won that Xeric for is their best work to date. In that light, Lane Milburn’s Death Trap is the feel-good comic of the year. Everything he does well, he does as well as he’s ever done it here: Immersive environments, crosshatched and “lit” to look like they were constructed from solid smoke. Weird, ugly monster designs that connote some sort of infectious sickness of reality as much as they do simply somethin’ scary. A real mastery of building the human body out of its constituent parts into something that appears meaty and palpable on the page–from his trademark fireplug goons to a convincingly sexy teenage girl. A flair for the ridiculous that manifests itself both through far more controlled riffing on the over-the-top writing of comics of yore than what you saw in his recent Feeble Minded Funnies and through a series of action beats and sight gags that juxtapose his bizarre creatures with the ’70s redneck-stoner-horror demimonde he squeezes them into. Some truly killer beat-by-beat action sequences of the sort you wish somebody, anybody who isn’t working with Grant Morrison on Batman & Robin would attempt in a contemporary superhero comic. An intelligent combination of the teenagers-preyed-upon-by-maniacs horror of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with even woolier comics villainy. Off-to-the-side visual flourishes, from the separate full-color science fiction story that opens the book to a Mario Bava/Barbara Steele-style pin-up that kicks off the main titular tale. And perhaps the most finely tuned sense of queasy, bottom-just-dropped-out horror and madness you’ll find in comics this side of Al Columbia. If any of this sounds at all appealing to you, drop the 12 bones, and put some cash aside for whatever he does next.