I am alone. I will broadcast on this frequency every Wednesday at this time for as long as I can. I know now that there are more of them than I could ever hope to deal with on my own. If anyone is out there in the same situation, God be with you. As Churchill said, “Never never never never give up.” Someday the world will return to normal, and other forms of comics will flourish again.
Marvel Zombies tpb
Robert Kirkman & Sean Phillips, Marvel, 2008 $15.99
Ok, now this is the silliest gol-durn comic book I’ve ever read, despite the fact that Kirkman and Phillips, for the most part, play it straight. If you can keep a sense of tension while Colonel America gets the top half of his skull shorn off and then runs around that way for the rest of the story, then you are definitely skilled.
I quit reading Marvel comics in the ’80s, so I don’t even recognize most of these characters anymore outside of their costumes. And I had to read Wikipedia to get the story leading up to this collection, a story I am still not clear on. I gather Marvel has adopted an alternate earth universe convention, which is funny considering all the grief they used to give DC for Earth-One and Earth-Two (and let’s not forget that Stan Lee, the conceited old fart, was haranguing DC about “imaginary stories” while publishing “What if….”. But I digress.)
There really isn’t much to the story. In fact, it’s one bit constantly repeated: Everybody’s hungry, everybody fights for every scrap. Only Giant Man, who has had the foresight to stash away the Black Panther in a hidden lab for nibbles now and then, manages to keep his head kinda-sorta straight. His piecemeal amputations of T’Challa’s body parts is the sickest part of the story, but fits right in with the others re-eating body parts that fall out of holes in their stomachs.
It’s not surprising that the ending left plenty of room for sequels, and there are at least five other TPBs carrying this story on. It’s a well done book, but just too silly for me.
Deadworld, vol. 3, 1-6
Garry Reed & Vince Locke ,Dalibor Talijic, Image Comics, 2005
As I said, I was out of comics in the ’80s, though I do remember seeing the original run of Deadworld on the stands. I gather the series ran almost 50 issues. These books are part of a 2005 reboot which is still running, though in fits and starts.
According to the Deaditorial in issue 1, this reboot starts off similarly to the original run, but quickly diverges. In the time honored tradition of zombie comics, the story starts off with a group of survivors in a zombie fight. The characters are largely stock, but there is one crazy old man who rattles on about a book.
The first thing that sets this story apart, though, is the appearance of the King Zombie, a motor-cycle riding, tough talking smart ass who is looking for Deake, the crazy man. King Zombie is sentient enough to negotiate, largely because he knows he has time on his side.
Though most zombies are of the shambling, all-I-want-is-a-bite-to-eat sort, there are a number who can speak, and they also possess the power to transfer their spirit into the bodies of healthier corpses.
And as a final variation on theme, it’s made clear that the zombie plague is a supernatural manifestation, brought on by spells in the book that everyone is talking about. King Zombie even uses it to bring yet another species of creature into this world, the Grakken, though it frankly seems gratuitous.
There are a couple of downsides to the series that keep it out of Walking Dead or Raising the Dead class. From a writing standpoint, there are just too many characters to keep track of in such a fractured narrative. Second, the art, first by Vince Locke then Dalibor Talijic, while overall excellent, augments the writing problem by not differentiating the visuals of the characters. I found myself constantly thumbing back through the book to see who the heck this or that character was.
Although this is one of the earliest zombie comics, it’s really middle of the road for the genre. There are much worse series, but the really good ones are so much more rewarding that I don’t think I’ll be completing this collection.
The Walking Dead tpb 1-3
by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore Image Comics, 2009
Kirkman’s series is the current gold standard for zombie books. I have to confess, I read the first two tpbs last year and wasn’t bowled over by them. However, the TV series was such a high-point for me that I had to revisit the series, and picked up volume 3 to boot.
Frankly, I think the TV show did it better, though it was relatively true to the books. But the TV characters are better drawn, the conflicts more believable, and pace better.
Still, I like these books and I’ll bet that as long as the series has been running, the stories get better as we go along. Even across the span of these three collections one can see Kirkman’s hand growing surer.
Here again we have the zombie plague with no real explanation as to its origins, the diverse group of survivors that have banded together for safety until the government comes, and the mindless, shambling zombies that can be killed, if you’re careful, with a ball-peen hammer to the skull. Their real power is in numbers.
But more so than other zombie books, this is a story about survival in a world turned upside down. When I was a kid, one of my favorite comics was Gold Key’s Mighty Samson, which dealt with surviva in a post-nuclear strike N’Yark. Zombies are just the contemporary equivalent.
Rick Grimes, the hero of the story, is what holds it all together. He’s a genuinely good man, a small-town cop with a few faults, but dedicated to doing his duty no matter how distasteful. He’s the best realized character, largely because he has more to do, and action, as they say, is character.
I’ll be catching up on the rest of the series soon. And I can’t wait for October, when the series resumes.
Zombie Tramp tpb
by Dan Mendoza, Super Real Graphics, 2010
Well, it’s not great BUT it is definitely the most original takes on zombies I’ve seen yet. It’s silly as all get out, but intentionally so, yet it still manages some nice tension and plenty of gore for those of you who crave that sort of thing. It’s a hoot and worth a look just because Dan Mendoza decided to do something different.
The story is a bit choppy, but it focuses on the origin of a single zombie, Janey, who is highest priced call girl in Hollywood. She’s betrayed by her pimp, gets bit by a zombie the chief of police keeps in his basement, and fortunately stumbles into the care of Xula, Queen of the Dead. Revenge is the motivator here, and when Xula dies, Janey absorbs her essence (actually, she eats her heart) and then pursues both her own revenge and that of the dead queen.
Zombies here have a few unusual powers. They can rip off the arm of another person and fuse it to their own flesh to replace a lost body part. They are also pretty good soldiers under Xula’s command.
The art is also inconsistent. Mendoza can draw cute sexy women, but sometimes the action is not so clear, and certain angles exceed his grasp, but I think he’s an artist to watch out for. A few more miles under his belt and he could be top notch.
Next week I’ll wrap up the last of the comics I have plus review the zombie webcomics.