Review – Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld

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Review – Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld

This dark, sprawling realm is rife with unimaginable creatures, feral beauties and dazzling temptations the likes of which you have never seen.
Luckily, you have a guidebook…

I got lucky with this review: I wanted to take a look at the upcoming Court of the Dead: The Chronicle of the Underworld just because I liked the cover and the description, and because I thought it was one of those large, hardback art books you see like Dragonology or Egyptology: big on pictures and small on story, but very pretty to look at.

I was a little off the mark with the Dragonology comparison.

I had no idea this was the story behind the elaborate displays I’ve seen at the Sideshow Collectibles booth at San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, with the otherworldly figures and prints. I love the Death’s Siren piece and the Shepherd of Souls print, and I’ve always meant to find out what they were all about, but kept forgetting.

So this is a sign from somewhere that it’s time to read up on it. That’s disturbing and awesome at the same time.

Unlike most of what you can find with Sideshow, the Court of the Dead isn’t based on an existing property. It’s an original creation by Chief Creative Officer Tom Gilliland, and the story portion of the book was written by Landry Q. Walker and Corrina Bechko.

This is no Dragonology (not that there’s anything wrong with Dragonology, but this is very, very different.) The story is incredibly detailed. It spells out the hierarchy of the Underworld, caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell. The pantheon of creatures is just as complex as Greek or Egyptian mythology, though much darker.

I loved the vocabulary and phrases you find all through the book: the Faction of Bone, the Traitor Angel,the Heretic Prophet, the Reaper General, the Thousand Lies, the Pain Eater, the Forlorn Choir, the Once Living and the Always Dead, and a lot more. The writing is excellent: there’s a serious tone to most of it, but it’s broken up by scribbled notes in the margins from a Court Jester type of creature, who may or may not have the reader’s best interest at heart.

Court of the DeadAnd the art, which is what I was most interested in anyway, is amazing. Dozens of artists contributed to the book, with everything from black and white sketches, to parchment maps, manuscript pages, landscapes, and full-page full-color portraits of amazing and disturbing creatures. (There’s something about regal, eyeless figures that’s deliciously creepy, it’s one of many themes you see throughout the book.)

Sideshow figures and statues are for serious collectors, and it’s a goal of mine to eventually own one (have you seen the Starscream version of Optimus Prime?) and until I make that happen I’ve got a book of art from the Sideshow creators to tide me over.

Images courtesy of Sideshow Collectibles.