Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Mattia Monaco
Colourist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Knock ‘Em Dead tells the story of Pryor Brice, a twenty one year old from Chicago with aspirations of being a stand up comedian. The problem is that he’s not very funny. He’s also living with his sister, Ronan, and they’re struggling to make ends meet with only Ronan having a job, and a job she hates at that.
After a night at an open mic a car accident changes Pryor’s life forever, as his near death experience grants him the chance to be funnier than he’s ever been before, but how far is he willing to go to be the star he’s always dreamed of?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Eliot Rahal’s writing, he seems to move effortlessly between relatable every day characters and abject horror at a moments notice. Knock ‘Em Dead is no exception to this, I feel like anyone who’s ever gotten on stage, be it for comedy, music, or just about anything else, will find something recognisable in Pryor’s struggle; but also so much of Ronan’s character is relatable. The pair make for great protagonists, easily getting carried away with what they can do next to increase Pryor’s success. They make some terrible decisions, but it’s easy to see why they do it, their own ambition driving them towards self destruction.
Aside from Rahal’s character work, this series is also really well plotted. It’s a smooth progression from introducing Pryor and Ronan and Pryor’s accident to the introduction of the horror and supernatural elements. It’s all done so well, and while a miniseries can sometimes feel rushed towards the end, that really isn’t the case here. It’s fast paced but never rushed.
Mattia Monaco’s artwork does a great job of showing Pryor’s struggle as he tells the same jokes over and over again at different open mics just waiting for someone to laugh. There’s a great tension to it. Monaco’s artwork does a great job of creating environments that feel mundane and lived in only to slip seamlessly into scratchy, nightmarish dreamscapes which are immediately reminiscent of Dave McKean’s work.
I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that, in an extreme way, this book explores the burden of success and how far you’d be willing to go to achieve your goals. There’s also a very literal exploration of imposter syndrome, as Pryor plays hosts to a revolving door of stars who’ve died, gaining their strengths but also their dangerous weaknesses.
Knock ‘Em Dead is a book about a comedian but it isn’t a comedy. Instead Eliot Rahal and Mattia Monaco present a supernatural horror that deals with possession in a way I haven’t seen before. The series explores personal issues that aren’t looked into enough, primarily self destructive cycles, imposter syndrome and even identity. There’s more to Knock ‘Em Dead than you might initially expect, with the ideas on display making this one of Eliot Rahal’s most interesting series to date.