Though not as gory as The Sad Tale Of the Brothers Grossbart, The Enterprise of Death is no less…meaty. Meaty in that there are a lot of themes to chew on, figuratively speaking. Slavery in the late medieval period, European-Moorish relations, the Black Plague and Inquisition, as well as the lesbian perspective in said era. Meaty too, in that necromancy, witchery and even cannibalism serve a large steaming portion of the story as well. Jesse Bullington, where he succeeds in delivering a pure, linear havoc in Bros. Grossbart, changes pace by delivering a more measured and thoughtful sojourn from the view of the quintessential medieval outcast. Peppered, it must be said, with mangled corpses aplenty.
What Bullington does really well is his portrayal of the lower classed every-witch in their milieu. Awa, Moorish slave to human and necromancer alike is an interesting lead protagonist. Her tale is more of survival than it contains full hero quality or development. Her learned skills in necromancy are portrayed more as a curse than an actual benefit, which gives the stereotype of witchery a refreshing take. Awa is quiet and demure, even when raising the dead at her bidding; however, there’s not much depth to her character other than being determined to resolve her life or death dilemma, coerced by her devious tutor.
With what Awa lacks in depth the supporting characters deliver, as Bullington conjures a curious group of comrades surrounding Awa. The artist and reluctant mercenary Manuel symbolizes the of plight of the starving artist forced to kill for his coal sketches. The giantess Monique, who wants nothing more than to manage her own clean and upstanding brothel, however dirty her own desires may be. And the mercurial Dr. Paracelsus, ever seeking to understand and develop scientific thought, is cleverly exposed in earning his title as the Devil’s Doctor. It an odd assemblage but one that gives quite a lot of detail, humor, and food for thought of the medieval era.
The Enterprise of Death is an interesting commentary on whether it is better, or perhaps just more fun, to struggle with life or succumb to that of the undead. The story is a fun romp across medieval Europe, concerning itself with issues still faced today like witch-hunts, war and disease, finding love, and whether cooked human really tastes like pork. It’s an engaging and smart story.