Crowdfunding Review: “Only Death Can Save Us” (Russ Leach)

Today we’ll be reviewing the crowdfunded comic book Only Death Can Save Us by Russ Leach.  For those of you not familiar with this review format, I grade a crowdfunding campaign on four distinct categories:

  • Book Content and Quality
  • Communication and Fulfillment
  • Packaging and Shipping
  • Stretch Goals and Bonuses

With Only Death Can Save Us (ODCSU), I backed the Single Graphic Novel tier.  This campaign was exclusive to Indiegogo.  Promoted as a Bronze Age-inspired, cosmic fantasy romp, did ODCSU deliver on that promise?  Read on to find out!   

Book Content and Quality

ODCSU was written and illustrated by Russ Leach, with dialogue and plot assists by Rik Hoskin, lettering by Kre8uk, and editing by Tim Quinn.  Titled Book One: Keystone, this book was advertised as being a multi-part series that hurls Chrissy and Dee (Death) together on a path through cosmic strangeness, adventure and eternity!  Chrissy serves as the voice of the reader throughout the story.  As she learns about this cosmic realm she’s first experiencing, so do we as the readers. 

The story itself is epic in scale, starting off with a battle that began 20 billion years ago.  We are introduced to the Pillars of Creation (aka: The Four Horsemen); War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.  The story focuses on the personification of Death in modern day who is introduced to the recently deceased Christine Kaminski (aka Chrissy).  It’s Chrissy’s tale of her own demise that has alerted Death to a great evil that has been released.  Together, the two travel to Earth to put a stop to this threat. 

The book was a fun read.  Advertised as all-ages, that is true only in the sense of imagery and dialogue.  There was no grotesque violence, nudity or foul language.  That being said, don’t mistake “all-ages” for “simplistic.”  The story is an intelligent and well-thought-out adventure.  I’m not ashamed to admit I had to look up the definition of a few words during the course of reading this book (“betide” anyone?). 

The art was the absolute stand-out for me in this ODCSU.  Traditional panel layouts were filled with classic bronze-age action sequences.  You could feel punches being thrown in some of the epic battles in the book, and I couldn’t help but notice some Kirby-Crackle in a few portal scenes. 

A look at an interior page from the book

The lettering and coloring were well suited for the book. The best compliment I could give them both were that they really weren’t noticed.  The were there to enhance the story, not muddle or detract from it.  All aspects of the creative process merged together well to form this book.  Hats off to the editing as well, as I found nothing to point out in regards to any spelling issues or creative inconsistencies. 

The only thing I’d like to mention in regards to the layout of the book, and this goes out to any creator, is to be careful when you break panels into gutters on the right side of even pages or the left side of odd pages.  If you break panels into gutters to the inside of the spine and then have a perfect (aka square) bound book, the reader struggles to see those images or letters.  In cases of double-page spreads try to not have any character or dialogue in the center of the page.  ODCSU did an excellent job of the latter.  There were a few times though where I did have to really bend the book wide open to read some of the dialogue balloons or sound effects. That being said, that’s a small complaint in a rather large-scale adventure. 

Billed as a 60-page story, the ODCSU actually measured in at 96 pages.  Sometimes extra pages can be fun such as having a variant cover gallery, or character bios (which ODCSU included).  However, when you get past 10-12 pages of extras, it goes from being bonus content to filler.  I felt that 36 pages of bonus content was just a bit too much.  When you’re creating a book that you plan on shipping globally, I can’t help but think weight is a premium.  Having 36 pages of bonus content simply didn’t do much to add to the story, or overall enjoyment of the experience.

A look at everything included in the Single Graphic Novel tier

The quality of the book itself was excellent.  It had a nice feel to it. It was sturdy, so you could really get into reading it without thinking you’re damaging the binding.  The cover had a soft matte finish, and the pages had a nice weight to them.  Overall, a really good read and feel to this classic style adventure. 

Grade: B+

Communication and Fulfillment

I didn’t purchase this book until after it was being fulfilled, in its in-demand phase.  I purchased it in April 2021 and received it in April 2021.  Still, I base the timing of delivery from when the 60-day campaign closes and when the book is fulfilled.  The campaign closed November 2020, and books were shipped January 2021.  That’s a three-month turnaround time from campaign close to delivery.  That type of turn-around is astounding. 

Only Death Can Save Us Book One: Keystone

The ODCSU campaign creator was very active with posting updates to his campaign page.  Not only that, but he utilized his YouTube channel to which he linked his updates, giving backers even more details on the status of the project.  I was extremely impressed with the communication and fulfillment in this campaign. 

Grade: A

Packaging and Shipping

My item was marked as shipped, but I wasn’t provided any sort of tracking information.  That being said, coming from the UK to the US, I don’t know what type of tracking is available, so I can’t detract from the shipping score for that.  Although a Gemini mailer wasn’t used, whatever packaging took its place was a worthy substitute. 

The book and bonus items were all packed with expert care.  First of all, everything was placed within a plastic bag and sealed, along with a sturdy piece of cardboard the was large enough to support all of the contents.  Then, that package was carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and then sealed with shipping tape.  Only then were the items placed in the cardboard packaging and sealed once again with shipping tape. 

A look at the box (left) and packaging (right) used to ship my rewards

It took about two weeks for my items to arrive.  I can tell you I’ve been waiting longer for items to be delivered shipped priority from my neighboring state.  Little things could have boosted this category even further.  For example, even though my items were bubble wrapped, I still felt them moving within the box.  An added piece of support (crumbled paper, etc.) would’ve prevented the contents from sliding around in transit.   Still, I was quite pleased with the packaging and shipping in this campaign.    

Grade: B+

Stretch Goals and Bonuses

This campaign unlocked four high-quality post cards as stretch goals:

  • Pestilence
  • War
  • Famine
  • Death

This category is called Stretch Goals and Bonuses though, and I did indeed receive a bonus.  It was actually my favorite of all the extras.  It was a beautiful A4 sized (8-1/4 x 11-3/4) black and white print of my favorite character, Chrissy, along with Death.  Kirby-Crackle abound, this print also came signed by creator Russ Leach, a beautiful little touch to this print. 

Four post cards and one A4 signed black and white print were included with my order

Grade: B+

I missed backing this campaign during its initial funding period.  Fortunately, I’ve been vocal enough online to hear from fans who know the types of books I like.  This book came highly recommend to me, and I backed based on those recommendations.  I am very glad I did.  I can tell you without question, I’ll be backing the next Only Death Can Save Us campaign once it launches, and I eagerly anticipate the sequel.  I also got a chance to discuss the book in detail with Leroi on his YouTube channel, which you can watch below.

Overall Grade: B+

Thanks for reading!

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