Second Opinion: “Only Death Can Save Us” (Russ Leach)

While one of The Splintering’s contributors has already reviewed Only Death Can Save Us (here), this supplementary review is provided as a “second opinion”.*

I’ve had Russ Leach’s Only Death Can Save Us Book One: Keystone for a while now, and as happens to so many of us, life has delayed the writing of my review. I found a day off of work and come hell or high water I am going to finally get this ‘down on paper’ (so to speak). For my review, the categories I’ll be adjudicating will be the following:

•                  Book Content and Quality

•                  Communication and Fulfillment

•                  Packaging and Shipping

•                  Stretch Goals and Bonuses

This is now a closed campaign, and by the end of its funding and InDemand phase, Only Death Can Save Us Book One: Keystone raised $15,707 USD and had 271 backers.

Book Content and Quality

Russ Leach was the talent on story, art, layout and design with dialogue and additional plot writing by Rik Hoskin, cover colors by Mike Summers, lettering by Kre8UK, and editing by Tim Quinn. Only Death Can Save Us Book One: Keystone – hereinafter referred to as ‘ODCSUB1K’ – has 60 pages of story content and also features 36 pages of contributions from guest artists on pin-ups and coloring duties from Rob Willis, Renzo Rodrigas, Mike Emeritz, Amrit Birdi, Mike Summers, Chris McAuley and Captain Frederick Head.

Starting with the art, Leach is an industry veteran (having drawn for Marvel, Panini, BBC Worldwide, Hachette, Cartoon Network, Markosia and Aces Weekly over the last 30 years) and truly, this is a fun experience that he himself called “A Bronze Age-inspired, cosmic, fantasy romp!” If that was his goal, he definitely achieved it. The art harkens back to the comics I loved as a kid and his style on this book was a joy to read through.

Only one character wasn’t to my liking visually, and that would be the spidery-looking fellow (but that can easily be attributed to my arachnophobia and dismissed as a personal problem). All of the other characters were equal parts homage to the Kirby, Buscema, Andru, and Swan era, and great new creations of Leach’s imagination. In many of the panels, the backgrounds weren’t very detailed, but that could have been an intentional choice, to focus on the characters in the foreground or simply to save time to bring the key elements into greater detail.

The interior colors are bright and whimsical, which further lend themselves to the intentional call-back to the comics of the late 70s and early 80s. Throughout the book, it was easy to distinguish the characters from the minimalist backgrounds and from one another.

The cover colors are a bit dark (which may be because of the subject matter), and it makes it difficult to quickly identify the book. The majority of the logo is very well-designed. I love the font selection and color fade. I am not a fan of placing the sub-title above the logo, however.

Kr8UK did a good job on the lettering and I was not taken out of the story, so they properly enhanced what was happening (as the better letterers will tell you is a testament to a job well-done).

The story written by Russ is sometimes serious and has a feeling of impending threat and urgency, but also an air of humour (yes, I spelled it that way on purpose). It reminds me of the days when Spider-Man, The Thing and Iron Man would crack wise and try to make light of an otherwise frightening situation. The book sets up the story for more content, and the book’s end title page indicates there’s more to come in Book 2.

Grade for Quality of Art and Colors: A-

Grade for Writing: B-

Overall Book Content and Quality Grade: B+


Communication and Fulfillment

I backed ODCSUB1K  in January 2021, and it was the “Lucky Number 13th” book I backed this year. Communication was frequent and very professional.

It reached the end of its funding period on November 1, 2020 fulfillment was handled in a timely fashion and I would back Leach’s next campaign with confidence. The fans matter a great deal to Leach, which he indicated both on the title page and throughout his creation and fulfillment of the title.

Updates were nearly monthly, with a five-month gap in early 2021, but they were informative and not overdone. Art or photos were included appropriately and, in some cases, were created just for the update.

Communication and Fulfillment Grade: B-


Packaging and Shipping

The book and other items were handled very professionally and with great care. The book came in a Gemini mailer and was protected from damage. There was a label with branding on it, and while not overly fancy, this let me know which book was arriving at my door.

I backed on May 20, 2021, and since it had long been InDemand, Leach shipped it right away. I received the book on June 1, so despite coming to me to the States from ‘across the pond,’ it was a reasonably quick shipment.

Packaging and Shipping Grade: B


Stretch Goals and Bonuses

There were eight stretch goals, one at a single backer, then one at £5,000, £5,750, £6,500, £7,250, £9,000, £11,000, £15,000 and £20,000, which are all very reasonable for a campaign from a 30+-year veteran. Having reached £11,240, the campaign unlocked the first six of the planned stretch goals. These included four character prints, a patch with art by SixAmComics, and an inked A4 Dee and the Key art print.

Stretch Goals and Bonuses Grade: B-


If you’re a backer of Only Death Can Save Us Book One: Keystone, I am sure you enjoyed it and are looking forward to the next issue, like I am.

Overall Grade: B

*Disclosure: The author of this review is also an independent comic book creator.

Thanks for reading!

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