Review: IDW’s Eight Million Ways to Die

Eight Million Ways to Die

Eight Million Ways to Die


by Roger Ash

Lawrence Block’s character Matthew Scudder is the star of 17 novels and two movies. Now you can add graphic novels to his list of appearances with John K. Snyder III’s adaptation of the most popular Scudder novel, Eight Million Ways to Die.

A couple notes before we begin. First, John is a friend. I have tried to be fair with the review, but I wanted you to be aware of that fact before you dive in. Second, I will mention a plot point or two, but these will be minor spoilers. I will not spoil the mystery.

If you’ve never encountered Matthew Scudder before, he is a former police officer. He left the force after a bullet he fired ricocheted off a wall and killed a child. Now he operates like a private detective, though he isn’t one. He will occasionally take jobs as a favor for friends. Even though these are favors, he doesn’t do them for free.

Scudder meets Kim Dakkinen on this preview page

Scudder meets Kim Dakkinen on this preview page


Lawrence Block writes in his introduction that this book really features three stories; the mystery, Scudder’s story, and the story of New York in the early 1980s. All three of those stories are well represented in the graphic novel. The most obvious is the mystery. Scudder is contacted by a prostitute named Kim Dakkinen who wants out of the business and wants him to break the news to her pimp, a man known as Chance. Scudder takes the case and, shortly after meeting with Chance, Kim is killed. Fingers naturally point to Chance but he swears he’s innocent and asks Scudder to find the real killer. Scudder agrees because he wants justice for Kim, but he doesn’t take Chance at his word.

Thus begins an intense and sometimes action-packed journey through New York in 1982. Scudder’s travels throughout the city while attempting to learn the killer’s identity very much incorporate the New York part of the story. While this is not as obvious as the mystery, it is present in the people he meets and their stories. It’s present in a much more subtle way as well; Snyder III’s art. New York is very much a character in the story as Scudder’s investigations take him to bars, churches, apartment buildings, and more. Each has its own look and feel thanks to the artwork. It really gives the story a sense of place.

Scudder’s investigation introduces my second favorite character in the story; the pimp Chance. He very much plays against type, he’s not the stereotypical pimp character, and I found his history to be quite fascinating. His story struck me as sort of an echo of what Scudder’s gone through. You also get to meet some of Kim’s “co-workers,” informants, police officers, and more. I did not see the end of the mystery coming, but it made sense once it’s all revealed.

This brings us to the third part of the book, and what grabbed me most; Scudder’s story. Ever since accidentally killing a child, his life has been in a downward spiral. He is an alcoholic and if he doesn’t turn things around, he’ll be dead sooner rather than later. That struggle informs everything in the book as it impacts how Scudder deals with those around him, the investigation, and the city. It’s a really fascinating character study.

Eight Million Ways to Die preview page 2

Eight Million Ways to Die preview page 2


The book itself is stunning. Snyder III doesn’t do much interior art these days and that’s a real shame because this looks amazing. It’s clear he put a lot of time into researching New York and the clothing in 1982 because it shines through on the pages. He also changes storytelling styles. Sometimes it’s straight ahead, sequential comic book layout, and other pages are text heavy. But no matter what the style, the story flows well. The story itself is intense and grabbed me fairly quickly. It’s a dense story, but everything is needed and you don’t feel like you’re getting useless information. It is definitely for mature readers with sex, violence, and swearing, but it’s not gratuitous.

John K. Snyder III’s adaptation of Lawrence Block’s Eight Million Ways to Die is a wonderful book. It’s a tense mystery and fascinating character study featuring art and storytelling that shows how well Snyder III knows his craft. If you’re a mystery fan, a fan of crime stories, or just enjoy a damn good story, read this book. You’ll be glad you did.

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