Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mildly Informative Review – Zombies Calling

I know, I know, what’s with the relatively current comic book review here? Well, sit right down on that comfy chair by the wood fire and let me tell you a tale. It turns out that if you forget that Volume 4 of Scott Pilgrim is coming out on a Wednesday you can’t actually get it on the Thursday. So I bought other comics, okay, I bought Zombies Calling and All Star Superman, so a brace or pair, if you like. It just looked like my kind of thing and I was looking for something new.

I’m glad I picked it up because for the most part I enjoyed the book. Yes, I used “for the most part” in that sentence. It’s not meant to be a backhanded comment or anything but there were a few things that I’ll get to at the end although nothing too discouraging I hope.

I know what you’re probably thinking as I thought it too – Another zombie book? Hasn’t that well been dipped into one too many times? Well, turns out not really, no. This is a book that is in many ways part of the self-aware zombie movement. Not that the zombies are self-aware but the story and the book acknowledges the source material not just as references and sources but blatantly by the characters. They watch zombie movies and are thus prepared for the zombie invasion moreso than pay homage to the materials they are homaging. I can appreciate that self-awareness, a lot because it helps alleviate a lot of the blasé repetitiveness that you can get when reading genre fiction.

This is a book that has a heck of a lot of charm. Faith Hicks manages to create characters that are cute but not cutesy and expressive without being over-wrought or over-rendered. In other words, pretty much what I'm looking for in pulp art. The characters lend themselves well to kinetic action scenes (like various face kickings and other zombie violence) as much as their emotional moments which comes off as feeling charming. I’m not using charming to be dismissive or belittling here, it’s a genuine compliment because it is so rare in so many comic books these days. Heck even the zombies are cute and goofy versions of the undead more so than the nightmare inducing rotting corpses one is used to.

The characters are all easily relatable if not on the verge of cliché but, hey, it’s a zombie comic and apparently there are rules. I get a bit of a Mary Sue vibe from Joss, but hey I can relate to anglophiles, zombie movie fans, Canadian student debt, and Halifax so I may be a bit biased there. There is basically the geeky leader, the attractive arty friend and the dumb as a defense guy. They’re relationship together is well balanced and I’m glad there wasn’t a bloated cast of protagonists.

This is also a funny book what with the evil professor commanding an army of zombies to some of the humor is based solely in Canadiana, which again, I’m happy to read.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the core message of the story. It is simple and yet it is highly appropriate. Basically, the current post-secondary education system in Canada is full of zombies that ensure you go through the next twenty odd years of your life as a dazed corpse. As someone who is paying off student debt until he is forty, I’m very amenable to this message. I’m a sucker for anything criticizing Canada’s delusions of grandeur.

I think this book is a fantastic beginning for Ms. Hicks as she has created the most charming twenty-somethings in Canadian comics since Scott Pilgrim took up his fight. We get some raw emotion at what I can only guess if personal experience of a higher education but it’s filtered through such an approachable cast of characters that I’m really interested to see what Faith Hicks takes on next. And that’s the only slightly annoying thing with the book, that while all the pieces are strong on their own, it still feels like a first work in a few ways. I kept reading about how the rules of zombie movies would help the characters survive without ever having the characters tell me what the rules were. It’s the classic first work mistake of telling and not showing, and while it is slightly distracting it’s not a deal breaker for enjoying the heck out of this work.


Jason said...

Thanks for that. I remember reading a preview of this book a long time ago, but I completely forgot about it. I'll have to pick it up next week. I just got done re-reading World War Z and I'm still in a zombie mood.

joncormier said...

It's a fun little read. I've yet to read WWZ although my wife picked it up and loved it (of her own volition). It was book of the month for November at a local bookshop we love, and since they haven't steered her wrong she picked up this one.

Jason said...

Yeah, I just bought it and re-read it (I originally got it from the Library). Both times I blew through it in a weekend. It' so good, it's probably made it into my "read once a year" rotation.