Monday, July 18, 2005

Get on to the bus /
That’s gonna take you back to beelzebub

I've really been enjoying doing reviews for Buzzscope. Writing with a more general comics audience in mind makes me exercise my brain in a way that reviews for this site (which can meander into wonkish territory fairly easily) do not. Also, trying to keep them to a fairly concise four paragraph format forces me to be more precise in explaining exactly why certain elements are or are not effective. Writing for a blog is great fun, but it can reinforce lazy habits that tend to get scrubbed out in a more rigorous format.

So, anyway, here's my recent reviews for Owly - Just A Little Blue (which I must say was inspired, in part, by Tom Spurgeon's review of the book for his Comics Reporter site), Superf*ckers #1 (see, I liked it too) and True Story, Swear To God: This One Goes To Eleven.

So, um, this is apparently the cover for the first issue of Marvel's Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan series:

(Click here for a slightly bigger version.)

In other news, Jim Woodring keeled over dead of a stroke.

Zombie Tales #1

I've been systematically impressed with Atomeka's output since they popped on the radar around a year ago. They haven't put out a lot - a few out-of-print works by the likes of Alan Moore and Glenn Fabry, a new Mr. Monster story by Gary Gianni, a Dave Johnson sketchbook - but what they have put out has been pretty neat. I was slightly wary of Zombie Tales, insomuch as it was the first Atomeka book I'd seen that was selling itself on a concept and not a creator pedigree. But after reading I can say with some relief that if you're a fan of zombies, this is a high-class book.

And hey, it just so happens that I am a fan of zombies, which is quite convenient. If you don't like Night of the Living Dead and all of George Romero's subsequent Dead adventures, then Zombie Tales will probably not entertain you in the slightest. Although it's not a tie-in, the stories in this book owe an obvious debt to Romero's zombie plague mythology. (Hey, isn't it a nice coincidence that Land of the Dead just happens to be in theaters right about now?)

I also happen to be a fan of Keith Giffin, which is quite convenient as he happens to appear twice herein. He pencils the first story, "I, Zombie", written by Andrew Cosby. Ted is a zombie with a modicum of intelligence - about at the level of a Bizarro (he speaks just like one). The story details his adventures while shuffling around the city looking for fresh brains. Of course, he doesn't find any brains, but he does find a creepy looking zombie cat who apparently holds the cure to the plague in a satchel on its collar. Many of these stories seem to have been written with the goal of establishing a shared framework for future stories, but because they also work as stand-alone thrillers of the classic twist ending variety. I am interested in perhaps seeing how these stories will be continued in future volumes of Zombie Tales, but it hardly detracts from the book to approach them as predominantly stand-alone narratives.

Giffin writes "Dead Meat" for his Thanos collaborator Ron Lim. Like "I, Zombie", it asks more questions than it answers, but it implies possible clues as to the origin of the plague that may be followed up in future issues. It also has some pretty odd zombie sex (I think, it's kinda hard to tell, which was a weak spot). Mark Waid drops by for a story that manages to drop some geeky zombie trivia without being too ostentatious, all the while telling a story of the horrifying limits the surviving humans are willing to go to in order to survive the plague. There's another story concerning corporate malfeasance in the zombie world, and a pair of character studies involving families torn asunder by the undead.

Anthologies are traditionally tricky, but by sticking fairly closely to a well-conceived framework the creators have crafted an interesting universe that promises to yield satisfying results. If it had been anything but zombies -- vampires, werewolves, mummies, whatever -- chances are I'd have been bored to tears. But I like zombies, and the idea of more good zombie comics makes me happy. If you like zombies too, this volume should make you similarly happy.

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