Posted by Don MacPherson on April 16th, 2007
Xombie Reanimated #1
Writer: James Farr
Artist: Nate Lovett
Letters: Brian J. Crowley
Cover artists: Tim Seeley (cover A) & James Farr (cover B)
Editor: Mike O’Sullivan
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Price: $3.50 US
According to the xombified.com website, Xombie Reanimated is the comic-book sequel to an Internet property that’s experienced some strong word of mouth and success. This limited series stars the same characters and is set in the same post-apocalyptic landscape filled with flesh-eating, mindless zombies. Zombie stories are a growing genre in comics today and in pop culture in general, but many creators approach it from the same, tired standpoint, making for a glut of derivative material. Fortunately, James Farr’s creation manages to stand out as unique in a couple of ways. First of all, the hero of the book is a zombie himself, and furthermore, Farr casts off some of the conventions of the genre to arrive at something a little more interesting. The writer/creator’s script is an accessible one, but more importantly, it’s one that boasts a strong sense of personality and fun. The script endeavors to establish an urgent, serious tone, but the cartoony quality of the art tells the reader that this is really more of an action-oriented, attitude-filled romp.
The year is 2052, and mankind has been forced to retreat into fortified cities in order to keep swarms of the undead at bay. A plague has beset the whole planet, transforming every corpse into a potential threat. The only thing that has enabled humanity to survive years like this is the fact that the zombies are incapable of thought, of guile. But a new kind of undead killer threatens that balance, so the military seeks out the one human who claims to have met an intelligent — and benevolent — zombie. No one ever believed Zoe’s story about Dirge before, but now the teenage girl’s yarn of the undead hero may be mankind’s last hope.
Nate Lovett’s style clearly takes some cues from modern animation designs, and it also reminds me of the artwork of such comics-industry talents as Tim (The Copybook Tales) Levins and Carlo (Justice League Unlimited) Barberi. More importantly, the wide-eyed, cartoony tone of Lovett’s art helps this zombie comic to stand out from the crowd. Usually, a darker, more detailed and graphic approach is employed in the genre, and this lighter tone is an interesting change of pace. The beefy designs for both the zombie hero and villain are striking. They really stand out as imposing and powerful, not only completely unlike the human characters but the other undead figures. The design for Zoe, the teen sidekick to the Rambo-like hero Dirge, takes its cues from manga, thankfully without sexualizing the underage character.
Letterer Brian Crowley manages to set apart the zombie characters’ speech balloons with a simple but effective approach that brings their corrupted nature out nicely. The jagged letters and harsh angles of the word balloons are simple distinctions, but Crowley contributes to the story by doing so.
I was most impressed with the small distinctions James Farr makes in his zombie premise as compared to the standards of the genre. The notion that no man or woman can escape the curse in this world makes it more interesting and brings some interesting potential for unusual sociological scenarios. In the world of Xombie, once anyone dies, s/he automatically transforms into an undead monster, intent on killing and feasting. The curse is not passed by a simple zombie bite, but by the natural conclusion of the human life cycle. Furthermore, the notion of a rare intelligent, thinking monster or two amid the legion of the undead is intriguing as well.
Now, Lovett’s script and plot is constructed from some cliches as well. Dirge’s tough-guy routine is part-Wolverine, part-Lobo, and his dialogue is like something right out of a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie. The same can be said of the quiet but fierce villain, complete with nasty Western-villain attire. Still, those cliched elements mix well with the novel approach to the zombie genre to arrive at something that’s fun and solidly entertaining. Xombie Reanimated isn’t a deep story or original enough to be seen as outstanding. But it’s engaging and deliciously diverting, nothing more but certainly nothing less. 7/10