Critical Mob | Phil Guie | January 9, 2012
Critical Mob reviews THE DEATH-RAY, “truly unique”
Originally published in Daniel Clowes' alternative comic Eightball and re-released by Drawn & Quarterly, The Death-Ray is both a satire of superheroes and a haunting tale of teenage alienation. The book opens in the mid-2000s, introducing readers to Andy, a middle-aged man who lives by the principle of doing right, despite his obvious cynicism. The narrative flashes back to Andy's high school years, where he is an outcast whose only friend is Louie, a fellow student and anti-social teen. When Andy smokes his first cigarette, he discovers that nicotine gives him super-human strength, and he and Louie decide to dedicate themselves to defending the innocent. On the surface, The Death-Ray may sound like standard Marvel fare, but by putting godlike power in the hands of two kids whose fantasies of being "super" aren't balanced by an understanding of how to be heroes, Clowes spins the genre. What results is a gradually building nightmare as recklessness and a growing distance between Andy and Louie—who never had much in common beyond their pariah status—has tragic repercussions. Teen angst may be a frequent theme in superhero comics, but the way Clowes tracks it into Andy's adulthood, showing disillusionment to be an enemy no power can vanquish, makes The Death-Ray truly unique.