Friday, November 12, 2010

The Long Box #16: Raise The Dead

Words: Leah Moore & John Reppion
Pictures: Hugo Petrus
April-July 2007

Zombie comics. Seems like they are every where and despite how much people claim to be tired of them they never go away. Where this trend started I really can't say but I'm pretty sure Marvel Zombies had something to do with it.
In 2007, Dynamite Entertainment decided to try their hand at a straight forward zombie comic with a bit of a twist on the way they are done.
You get your zombies and your flesh eating, sure, but you also get realistic human characters. THAT'S the twist. Image's The Walking Dead is the only other zombie comic I can think of that is a zombie comic that focuses on the human characters more than this one did.
Okay, so the story begins with a group of people, 5 adults and 2 children, taking refuge in a bus depot eatery, by trying I mean they are trying to get the doors shut and the security shutters dropped so they don't get eaten. So, we jump in with zombies already ruining everyone's day and no one knows what started it or how to stop it.
We also don't have a military or police presence here really, just a group of ordinary people trying to figure things out and survive. This is handled quite well after the shutters are dropped and the people start talking about what's going on. Everyone has a different opinion of what's going on.
So, what helps this stick out, to me, is how they fill in who our cast members are. Interspersed throughout the story are small flash backs that tell you either how these characters first found out about the zombies or what their lives were like before it hit.
For example, the kids, Maria and her little brother Joseph, are home alone when their mother returns home from work, I presume a hospital. Mom has a bite on her arm and not feeling well, goes to bed. The kids return to watching TV when reports start coming out about attacks. Then a zombie appears at the window and the kids panic, Maria tells Joseph to get their mom while she collects their father's gun for protection. Joseph screams from the other room and Maria gets there to see their mom trying to eat her little brother. This scene ends with the reader realizing this little girl had to shoot her mother in the head to save her little brother.
Other flash backs aren't as involved but seem to connect the characters and give what could be hints as to what started things. The bus driver, Clara, has a scene with meteors falling to earth in her on of her flash backs which ties in with what Luke tells the group. He watches the starts and witnessed the meteor show which hit a medical research facility where another character, Natalie, worked on some kind of research to extend life which, when tested on animals, made them strangely violent.
This gives us two possible ways this could have started and also a great example of how well written this is.
So what are our heroes/zombie bait trying to do? Well, get someplace safe, of course. Natalie tells them of the facility she worked at and of it's shelter with food and electricity that should keep them safe for possibly weeks. They journey there but it isn't without loss. While trying to get to Clara's bus, Natalie gets bit. She knows her time is short but thinks the work she and her boss Dr. Jones have been doing might hold the get to a cure. Unfortunately for her and Luke they don't make it.
Dr. Jones, he's an interesting fellow. He was working on this project for a company (specifics aren't really important) and wasn't working fast enough so his funding gets cut off. Fearing the end of his career he experiments on himself and blacks out just as the facility he's working is is struck by a meteor. The project and experiment seemingly make him immune to zombies. They don't even try to eat him. As his part in this progresses it becomes clear why.
So, with Dr. Jones showing the way, Clara and the kids head to the shelter while Charlie, who's been a jerk the whole time, and Matt, apparently a convict who just got out of prison, try to secure the place.
It doesn't end well.
So, what happens? Well, I really don't want to tell you. I will say this though: don't go around a bunch of dead lab animals or a room full of dead people when there is a zombie plague running wild. Chances are everyone you started with will not be with you once everything is said and done.
Overall this series was very entertaining and the characters really engaging. Little details, such as things going on in the background during flash backs or just how the characters stories connect, make if even more interesting. While the zombies are the body that carries the story the engine is definitely the living characters. People from different backgrounds, ages whatever, being forced together and trying to survive. Some are self serving while others are concerned with as many people surviving as possible.
It certainly feels like it could be a movie. A very entertaining one at that.

Now, the art...I have no complaints about the art. It's consistent and more than does it's part in telling the story. It's dark and moody where it needs to be and fully of emotion where it's important. I really can't say a bad thing about the art.
The covers were fantastic as well. I've posted the covers I have and you'll notice they are by people most associated with Marvel Zombies. The original cover artist, Arthur Suydam, did the main four covers keeping up with his ability to 'zombifie' popular pictures while variant covers were done my Sean Phillips who drew the interiors of the first Marvel Zombies books.
Of course I've been wanting to re-read this for a while but the recent announcement of Raise The Dead 2 really got me off my duff and got me to read it again and I'm glad I did. This story is certainly good for multiple readings!

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