Subordination by Death: An excerpt from new graphic novel ‘Death Strikes: The Emperor of Atlantis’

Death Strikes: The Emperor of Atlantis is an original graphic novel by journalist Dave Maass and artist Patrick Lay, based on a suppressed opera written by two concentration camp prisoners. 

In 1943, Peter Kien and Viktor Ullmann, two prisoners at Hitler’s Terezín concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, created a gripping one-act opera. They did not live to see their masterpiece performed. Berger Books and Dark Horse Comics are presenting their story in a form that the two authors never imagined: as a graphic novel that combines dystopian sci-fi, mythic fantasy and zombie horror to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. 

“Written in a concentration camp, Peter Kien and Viktor Ullmann’s opera is the truest form of artistic resistance, a middle finger to the Nazis and all authoritarians across history,” said Maass—a Reno resident who is the director of investigations for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Reynolds scholar in residence at University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism—in a press release. “By adapting this fierce, genre-blending satire, we hope to introduce this nearly lost masterpiece to new audiences—and to challenge the tyrants of today.” 

Said artist Patrick Lay, in a news release: “We’ve incorporated Peter Kien’s own incredible artwork, excellent character designs by Ezra Rose and the architecture of Terezín and Prague to craft visuals draped in passing shadows, smoke and vapor. From the book’s ‘Realm of the Unreal’ to the streets of Atlantis, the history of resistance against oppression and censorship is ingrained in the world.” 

Below is an excerpt from Death Strikes: The Emperor of Atlantis, by Dave Maass and Patrick Lay, with permission 

This excerpt is from the second chapter, which is set almost completely in a cramped cell in Emperor Overall’s tower, where his only connection to the outside world is a two-way radio,” Maass said. “Yesterday, he ordered that everyone in the world slaughter each other. However, as the reports from the field come in, he learns that people have just totally stopped dying. Rather than see this as a miracle, Overall sees it as subordination by Death himself. Kien and Ullmann really leaned into the wordplay and off-stage violence in this section of the opera, and so did we.”