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Monday, 24 October 2011

iZOMBIE Vol. 1: Dead to the World

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Michael Allred
Colors: Brian Buccellato
Publisher: Vertigo Comics

"Combine the two most horrible tastes you can imagine... like motor oil and someone else's vomit... and you won't even come close to this level of nasty. Yeah, I eat brains."
What’s it about?

iZombie is a a sort of fantasy story taking place in an urban environment.
It takes places in our modern times and updates old movie monster archetypes.

The story is told from the point of view of Gwen, Gwendolyn Dylan, who works as a gravedigger.
She's in her 20s and is actually a living dead! A zombie if you will.
Her best friends are also other undead creatures. Ellie is a genuine ghost, she seems to come from the 60s and can't leave the places she visited. Scott, aka Spot, is a were-terrier.

Gwen as no recollection of her death and her memories of her past are slowly fading from her mind.
To stay alive, or rather undead, she needs to eat brains.

This comic isn't actually an horror story, but plays a lot with elements and tropes from the genre.
It is more of a detective series, mixed with some drama and romantic clues.
What is good about it?

First of all, the art!
Michael Allred (X-Static, Madman) has style that suits perfectly the genre this book plays with and the tone set by the series. As co-creator of iZombie, he really gets to play around with the various monsters that occupy this little portion of Oregon.

And second, the story!
It's just pure fun. Horror and monster movies fans will love the allusions and nods to the genre.
iZombie plays around the concept of death and the way spirits work in such universe.

Bodies are inhabited by two souls rather than only one. One residing in the mind, another in the heart. The oversoul and the undersoul. The brain, the center of our thoughts, memories and personality. And the heart, home of our appetites, emotions, fears...
It's kinda odd at first, but it perfectly explains and ties in the other type of monsters. Everything sounds so simple and logical from that original idea! Ghosts are bodiless oversoul, when after some death one of the souls remain on this plan of existence. Poltergeists are bodiless undersoul, prisoner of their instinct and without the true embodiment of their personality. Were-wolves are normal human beings haunted by a ghost, vampires are bodies that only lost their undersoul now victims of their own hunger and emotions while zombies are in fact bodies without the oversoul.

The story is fun, a real page turner, and you'll find yourself asking for more, wanting to discover more about Gwen and her strange new life amongst these weird creatures!

There's also proper references to the comic book medium as a whole, rather than just horror stories.
Silver Age-era comic books, old E.C. horror comic books, but also old publications and more!
Nothing seems forced, unlike what I've seen in other books and it's all in a good fun.

What is bad about it?

I wouldn't really call it bad, but the fact it speaks of death, undead creatures and brain-eating zombies is kinda an odd concept presented like this.

The comic isn't a properly "horror" story. Which makes this kinda hard to classify.
Some "way too serious" horror fans might be put off by the simple and fun look at the genre.

And people who might be used to by gentler and kid friendl-er comics might be surprised by the amoung of gore and violence presented in such an unusual fun way.

But besides that, it's an all-age title for everybody!

Besides the "Zombies eat brain"-part.

What’s the art like?

It's amazing!
What? Too much?
It's gorgeous, it truly is! Allred is a very talented artist, is art is neither too realistic/serious nor too cartoony. Just the perfect balance, expressive enough to convey a lot of emotion, detailed enough to feature realistic and diverse body types.

Each cover is a true work of art.
Panels are well thought out and the layout works alongside the story telling to narrated and express the mood of the story. The colors are also quite impressive, well worth mentioning! Mike's other half, Laura Allred, did an amazing job on all of these issues!

Other information
144 pg. Colors. Softcover.

Priced at approximately £10.99
ISBN: 0857682512

It's a current on-going series. I recommend reading at least the first trade to see if you like the mood and the characters. The first volume mostly places the important players and sets up a few plot points, like a good introduction. A continuous on-going plot develops during the second volume which will no doubt spawn many more issues! Monster hunters are travelling the country and been present during our whole history, an unreasonable number of supernatural events are taking place in this town, and it's quite difficult to have a normal life when you're given a second chance. Even an undead life!
Vol. 1: Dead to the World
Vol. 2: uVampire
Vol. 3: Six Feet Under & Rising coming up in February as I write these lines.

The title is no doubt a reference to I... Vampire comic books from DeMatteis featuring a modern day unusual Vampire instead. And the very first issue is indeed titled "I...Zombie".

If you enjoyed Mike's artwork and the style of this story, you can also take a look at:
Madman Atomica! a giant sized omnibus reprint of most Madman comics.

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