I’m a fan of bad zombie movies. Love them to death. There is a beauty to them in their ugliness. Hell, even my friends put together a zombie movie where I got to be patient zero for the zombie outbreak.
Zombie comics can be a much of the same breed. They share a lot of qualities of a zombie movie – anyone can do it, it follows roughly a few type of scenarios for introducing the characters, and the special effects are low budget. Even the most popular zombie book out there – The Walking Dead – keeps low budget by being a black and white comic (although I am sure Kirkman has justified it some other way).
Let’s face facts with The Zombie Squad #0: it is amatuer work. The good news for the comic and its creators is that there is some potential here for something more. There is a lot of this comic that reminds me of Matt Wagner’s first run of Grendel. If you have ever seen the first Grendel stories, they are visually very different from the later Grendel comics. That is one of Grendel’s redeeming qualities – you get to see the artist and writer develop over time with each issue. The even better news is that I am interested in the concept of labeling this book as an all-ages comic.
The setup for The Zombie Squad is very basic. A group of friends who are still at the age of needing babysitters get caught up in the middle of a zombie apocalypse when meteors start to fall from the sky. But don’t fret, they are huge zombie movie fans and are going to use their knowledge of zombie lore to survive. Each character has some very basic elements of themselves introduced, a couple of relationships with the potential for tension or romance are shown, and we get the overall mission statement for the book established.
While we do get a foundation for how the group interacts, I just feel that it is on very wobbly legs. These kids, who are still young, adapted very quickly to their surroundings. It also seemed like the pace of the story was on fast forward and tried to do a hell of a lot in a little page space. I would have enjoyed losing the backup in the book in favor of giving the main story the proper pacing and development that it needed. My guess would be that the focus of the next book would be around developing the story a little further so we know what kind of zombie apocalypse scenario we are dealing with and get to know the characters a little more.
One aspect of the comic that I enjoyed was seeing that each character had a different colored word balloon. This was especially helpful to see who was saying what when the characters were off panel or has we got a look around the treehouse with the characters providing a voice-over. There was also a distinction that word balloon placement was an issue in the backup story but not the main story. There are times when you have to know when to let the art do the storytelling and when to let the words do it. Having the word balloons cover up the art and placing them in the middle of the panel felt very awkward and interrupted the flow of the story the art was trying to show.
The other aspect of the art that felt awkward was that the paneling had a close up or medium shots only feel to it. There were very few times that an establishing shot was shown to show how big an area was. One example where the book could have benefitted from this was when the group was in the backyard. Zombies seem to come from nowhere but I had no sense of danger because I didn’t know if the backyard was a five foot cube or the size of a football field.
The gore was kept at a minimum, and that is expected for something that wants to be kept at an all-ages book. However, I am kinda iffy about the idea of giving it to someone of a young age. Especially paired with a back up that is geared more towards adults, I just feel like this book would have done better on its own without the backup and have taken the time to develop more from the main story to show a little bit about which direction this story would be moving towards.
The big draw for the book is the fact that it has potential. You can see that with enough time and development poured into the comic book format will make this book stand out eventually as the creators become more aware of how best to tell a story within a comic. Is it worth the price tag? I waver on that. If the full comic used all the pages to focus on the title story instead of putting in a backup, then yes, it is worth a go at #3.99. As it stands right now, I just have the general feeling of wanting a little more out of the book after I am finished reading it. Maybe the next issue will provide that. Judge for yourself when the book is released in March of 2013.
This comic will be available from the Con Artists Entertainment website and in select comic shops.