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Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Zombie Tales from Atomeka/Boom Studios: I don't make it any great secret that I'm not a fan of zombies. So I was prepared to be mildly amused, at best, by this book, and instead I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. What made the difference, I think, is that the writers and artists, by and large, chose not to focus on the "lone band of survivors facing the zombie horde" angle that's been done to death. Instead, the stories focus on more character driven stories from unique angles, that just happen to have a zombie-infested world as the back-drop.
The first story, "I, Zombie" by Andrew Cosby and Keith Giffen is a very funny look at the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of, well, one of the zombies. Cosby and Giffen manage in just a few short pages to make a flesh-eating monster both likeable and somewhat sympathetic. And it's the sort of story that I expect this guy to like a lot. Mike Nelson and Joe Abraham's "Severance" is a compelling revenge story which just incidentally happens to be about zombies. "For Pete's Sake" by Johanna Stokes and J.K. Woodward is a beautifully illustrated story of lost love and commitment that uses the zombie backdrop well. "If You're So Smart" by Mark Waid and Carlos Magno is probably the weakest story in the book. It's a cute gag, and the pay-off is funny in a demented way, but honestly it felt about two pages too long. Keith Giffen and Ron Lim finish off the book with "Dead Meat" another of the grimly funny stories, this time about a zombie soldier. Like "I, Zombie" it has an interesting, zombie-centric view-point, and also like that story it promises to build into something more in future installments.
The stand out story, however, is "Daddy Smells Different" by John Rogers and Andy Kuhn. It's the closest to a straight-up horror story in the book, and it's very effective and chilling. It harkens back most strongly to the classical, Rod Serling-style of ironic endings for horror stories. The entire package is available at comic stores tomorrow for $6.99.
Drive by Nate Southard and Shawn Richter, from Frequency Press: I like caper stories. I like stories about people, not necessarily on the right side of the law, who are clever and beat the odds. This is almost the exact opposite sort of story however. This is a story about a guy who isn't very clever, gets in over his head, and ends up losing just about everything as a result of his own hubris.
The set-up is right out of any number of crime stories. Brian Ray, a cabbie, picks up a pushy fare and almost immediately has people shooting at him. After facing death, Brian ends up with a gun and a duffel bag full of drugs. And this is where Southard pulls a neat trick. Brian and his friends start acting as if they were the heroes of some "underdog comes out on top" crime story, never realizing that very bad people are going to be coming to look for them. It's this contrast between the character's expectations and the reality of their situation that makes the story work. Brian is very easy to identify with. He wants to be the hero of a big, exciting story. But he just isn't quite aware of how the world really works to understand just how much trouble he's in.
The art by Shawn Richter is notable as well. Richter has a good grasp of storytelling, and his characters "act" well, but there's still a certain roughness to much of his work. The impression I come away with is that he's a developing talent with the potential to do truly excellent work, but isn't quite there yet. But apart from that, this was a good book. A little rough around the edges, perhaps, but it shows lots of promise and talent. Both Southard and Richter are creators I wouldn't be surprised to hear more from in the future. Drive is $11.95 and is available from Frequency Press.