Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Last Zombie: Dead New World (comics)

Writer: Brian Keene
Artist: Joseph Wight
Collects: The Last Zombie #1-5

I guess the lesson to be learned here is "don't judge a book by its publisher".

I almost gave this one a pass only because of who was putting it out. I know Antarctic Press mostly for their comics that take current political figures and throw them in ridiculous situations to capitalize on their notoriety. They're nowhere near Bluewater - who put out nothing but terrible comic biographies without permission and are to comics what "The Asylum" are to movies - but it's enough to send me looking elsewhere.

I realize that's not exactly fair - it's not like DC and Marvel don't put out shit nestled between two covers and I read a lot of their product - but come on; is Steampunk Palin really the kind of comic that's going to inspire my confidence? At least when Marvel pumps out a She-Hulk ongoing you know there's someone out there who wanted it.

The concept grabbed me though, so I gave it a read. I'm glad I did. Brian Keene decides to set his book after the zombie apocalypse - or at least it seems to be over; whether it is happens to be a mystery - which is an inspired move. Almost no one ever goes for the aftermath for obvious reasons, so it's a relatively untapped well to draw from.

Keene goes for it with gusto. The specter of zombies looms large - again, no one is a hundred percent sure they're really gone - but they're hardly the big threats. In the year humanity went underground, as it were, unmanned nuclear plants melted down, your typical roaming gangs formed, animals run free, wildfires raged unchecked and diseases ran rampant. It's a nightmare out there.

A nightmare our cast has to go out into. They lost contact with the Maine bunker, which housed not only most of the government that was left. Obviously, a rescue operation is needed, one that's venturing out into the unknown, to ascertain what happened and if necessary rescue whoever is left of the remnants of American government. No pressure, right?

Keene wisely grounds it all in human emotion. Of course, there's the overall purpose of the mission, but one of our main characters is on board for personal reasons. His fiancee was in the other bunker and he won't stop until he knows one way or another if she's still alive. He's also the center of the twist near the two thirds mark.

There is definitely suspense to the proceedings. Keene fakes us out from time to time and never lets us forget that the zombies could still be out there. But by the end, zombies seem like the least of their worries; they're not out of the bunker long before they're attacked by bandits after their equipment. Worse still, they're outnumbered. We close the book wondering what else might be out there; the apocalypse may be over, but even if the zombies are gone, it's clear humanity has a long way back.

The artwork is good as well. The comic is black and white, but it seems the artist went sans inker. Almost everything looks penciled in, including detail, giving it a unique look among comics. I can't think of many that just go with pencil drawings, with all the shading and such done that way. I like it. Wight has talent.

The Score: 8 out of 10

I had a good time with this one; if Antarctic Press is smart they'll keep this team around on other projects as well. It's pretty well written, well drawn and has a pretty good hook. I recommend it and I'll be keeping an eye out for more. Give it a shot; it's worth the time.

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