I really have had an issue with the the zombie genre my whole life. While I could go into a laundry list of reasons for my dislike, I will keep it here to two short generalized statements. First, I just think the whole thing peaked in the mid ’70s with Romero’s original films. Second, I just don’t like it as a genre and/or storytelling device. That’s right, I said it. Walking Dead? Who cares. Zombieland? Should have been a short film. So imagine my surprise, as I was reading “The Hollows #1,” that I was pulled into a spin upon the zombie story…and I liked it.
The spin on the zombie story in “The Hollows #1” comes through tying it into an ecological disaster. I think it is interesting to note how the ecological disaster has emerged in monthly comics as a plot device in a number of works in the last year, most noted and lauded being Brian Wood’s drama The Massive from Dark Horse comics. While The Hollows aspires to the fantastical I think it may hold greater appeal to people who are interested in looking into speculative fiction based on real events rather than the HBO seriousness feel of Wood’s work due to The Hollows being structured upon a more sci-fi, dystopian way of telling a story with disaster elements. In short, I feel sometimes, at the end of the day, we are all just looking to somehow engage with the world around us, to acknowledge the problems, and sometimes we need a filter (i.e. comics) to help the medicine go down rather than the gravity of more realistic images. Writer Chris Ryall uses the most recent ecological disaster in Japan as a “what if” premise to frame a future where “a” government/privatized industry has built cities upon gigantic genetically engineered trees. But the cities only house the “best and brightest,: and “Some. Not all,” have been saved. The have nots have been left below, in a dying, radioactive wasteland. This wasteland is where the spin on the zombie genre comes in.
The wasteland, the former spaces of all who lived in Japan are now the home of the have nots and the hollows. The hollows are the “radioactive burnt-out husks who are drawn to consume the life-energy of the living!”. The have nots who were left down below with the hollows have been forced to live underground or up above on the rooftops as the hollows roam the streets. This is where the art of Sam Keith has room to move around, as his abstract, frantic, often chaotic pencil work suits these manifestations. Keith, who helped create the original Sandman comics with Neil Gaiman and then went on to create the super surreal The Maxx, which also spun out into as an intriguing, but brief, animated series on MTV, has sometimes over the last two decades frustrated me with his work. in that frustration, however, I cannot deny that Keith does have the ability to draw you into the panel with images of the fantastic and the horrifying, and to me he remains someone worth a look when he puts out some new work.
“The Hollows #1” is a passible, entertaining introduction to this world. While I have a feeling that the trade will be really worth your time as a complete story, I can recommend this first issue if you are looking for a different take on the zombie/disaster story (and really just for something a little different on the shelves in general).