Saturday, October 7, 2017

Comics Lust 10/07/2017

Welcome back, Donist World Denizens! For those of you new to our site, I’m Donist, and I am joined by Donist World CFO the Reverse Obie* (my friends’ Boston terrier whose fur recently swapped colors) and by our marketing director/administrative assistant/party planner/replicant reformer Tulip (my dog, Reverse Obie’s sister). Yup, It was my birthday on Thursday and you know what that means: eating cake, burgers, fries, cookies, and a mint chip ice cream cake all washed down with a DIPA and a Treat Yo’ Self-sized bourbon barrel aged pumpkin coffee porter. I spell this H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y. Toss in some Over the Garden Wall (streaming on HULU, definitely check out this beautiful cartoon) and the pilot episode of Gifted (love it thus far) and you have one heck of a great birthday. Oh, yeah, the Donist World office (Mom’s basement) was closed Friday to keep the festivities rolling and to see the masterful Blade Runner 2049 (which is now one of my all-time-favorite sci-fi movies). Anyhow, grab yourself a pumpkin ale or a strong ginger ale, turn on some ’80s-style synthwave, open your tome-sized Werewolf by Night Omnibus, and check out some great comics while you’re at it. Thank you for reading!

*Obie, through his dabbling in arcane magiks mixed with ancient corrupt business practices, has had not just the colors of his fur switched, but a complete overhaul of his work ethic as well…I think I’m kinda okay with the mishap.

Not sure what “Comics Lust” is about? Take a look at the Introduction to “Comics Lust” post or take a look at the static “Comics Lust Table of Contents” page to jump to a topic.

Comics Lust

Hey Hey We’re the Zombies!

I want to say that because it’s the beginning of October, it’s the time for spooky comics, but for me, scary comics are a year-round event. This goes doubly so when it comes to monsters. I don’t care if they have fangs, or claws, or scales, or if they’re big as buildings. They can come from the farthest reaches of outerspace or from the darkest depths of the ocean; I’m in. Today, however, we’re staying on land. Rooted. Grounded. Six feet under, to be precise. This genre is by no means dead but is rather evergreen. Whether it shambles or moves with a hunger-driven fury, we’re talking about…zombies.

You cannot have a proper conversation about the undead without talking about the most popular zombie franchise in the world. I am, of course, talking about the amazing The Walking Dead, published by Image Comics. Written by the now immensely wealthy Robert Kirkman, originally illustrated (first six issues) by Tony Moore and then by Charlie Adlard who has—as of this writing—illustrated over 160 issues in the series, The Walking Dead has become not just a smash hit as a comic, but also in the world of television, toys, merchandise, and video games. I count myself among the fans of the television show, which is now in its seventh season and includes different characters and only loosely follows the source material, but it is the comic book that introduced me to lead character Rick Grimes. It’s the comic that I return to again and again when I want to be scared, emotionally scarred, and freaked out all at the same time.

Now, I was a little late to The Walking Dead series, but after taking a peek at the first trade while passing time in a now dead bookstore chain, I immediately ordered the four available trades and powered through them through them once they arrived on my doorstep. I was in agonized love. I HAD to get the next installment the moment it came out, and then the next, and the next, and the next. I immediately cared for Rick, Carl, Shane, Maggie, Glenn, Michone, Tyreese, and the many many others who come into the story and who, more often than not, forever left the series in the most violent of ways. At one point, I had my wife, my brother, and about four of our friends reading the book, and although none of them are still following along—my wife tapped out during the brutal chapters concerning the Governor—there was a brief period of time that some non-comic readers were excited to be reading comics; it was kind of nice.

For those who have just recently escaped from their ’80s-style bomb shelter, The Walking Dead is a Night of the Living Dead style of zombie. Meaning, they are slow, shambling, rotting corpses that are frightening enough on their own, but when two, three, tens, or hundreds show up, that is when things become utterly terrifying. But the zombies aren’t necessarily the worst this world has to offer. It’s the other survivors that pose the biggest threat: the ones who have cast aside the morals of their former world to gather power, to survive at any cost, and to take what they want from whoever crosses their path. The term “the walking dead” does not mean the dead who have risen with their ungodly hunger, but rather it refers to the still living whose days are numbered until they too die and turn into a flesh-eating monstrosity; there are plenty of threats living and undead eagerly wanting to help the cast of characters find their ultimate end. If you have been holding off on reading this powerful and compelling series, then you simply must pick up the first massive compendium and see for yourself why this comic has taken the world by storm. Be warned, though, it will not be an easy ride, but as devastating as certain events are you won’t be able to turn away or resist seeing what comes next.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I now really, really, really want to read the old Marvel Comics Tales of the Zombie, but it is of course currently out of print. This story originally appeared in a 1973 black and white magazine that ran for ten issues and an annual and featured partial nudity, some profanity, and was a lot more graphic in its violence as it was able to skirt the dreaded regulatory Comics Code Authority. Originally based off of a short story from the ’50s by Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett, the zombie idea was resurrected by fan-favorite-of-the-bizarre Steve Gerber along with co-writer Roy Thomas who told the story of Simon Garth, a man brought back from the dead to seek out vengeance upon those who wronged him. Artist Pablo Marcos illustrated the first few issues of the magazine before a rotation of different artists and writers took a turn at telling Simon Garth’s story. I am committed to finding and reading Tales of the Zombie in the very near future. The search is on.

On the flip side of the zombie coin is the fast flesheater. Forget the moaning, groaning, shambling mass of decay slowly making its way towards you. With this new type of zombie, they are fast and they do not tire, and I have seen no better example of this breed of undead than in the unnerving 28 Days Later. Originally a fantastic movie (one of my favorites), and with a possibly even scarier followup film called 28 Weeks Later, the comic focuses on the time between the two films as a survivor from the first film, Selena, returns to the UK in an effort to help save a lost team from the infected, US forces, and impending doom. Not everyone will make it out alive. Written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Declan Shalvey and Alesandro Aragon, published by Boom Studios, this tense 24-issue thriller works perfectly on its own, but is made even better if you’ve already seen the movies. I anticipate coming back to this some day soon.

For those who can’t be too long apart from their capes and tights and superheroes, there is an option: Marvel Zombies. A double bonus for fans of The Walking Dead is that the first mini was written by none other that Robert Kirkman. Now, I have little experience with this fan-favorite pocket universe of series, but from what I did read the gist is that an alien virus brings the dead back to life, infecting numerous deceased heroes and villains, who go on to infect living heroes and villains, who then try to infect everyone else, all while retaining their powers and abilities. What I did read of the series was quite fun and a nice break from the usual events and continuity challenges, and something I might eventually return to. Here are the books that comprise the Marvel Zombieverse:
I’m certain I missed something in the Marvel Zombieverse list above, but given the vast amounts of material out there, there’s plenty to work through before you scramble to find the odd one-shots and specials I managed to omit.

My first real foray into the world of zombie comic books came in the ’80s with the arrival of the monumental Deadworld comic from the Arrow/Caliber publishers and written by Stuart Kerr and illustrated by Vince Locke. Where as most zombie stories have the dead rise as a result of humanity meddling where it should not, Deadworld opted for more of a supernatural explanation. Of course, there were your regular zombies decimating the world while pockets of surviving humans struggled to survive, but this series had brutal, towering four-armed monstrosities and an unnerving, highly-intelligent, motorcycle-riding Zombie King commanding them all. Like The Walking Dead, which followed many years later, major characters in this series died and suffered throughout the course of the story. I somehow lost track of the series given the many jumps from publisher to publisher and there was even a reboot at one point. The best way to get the full Deadworld experience is through Calibers’s nine Archive Editions and then move onto the reboot with IDW’s Deadworld Omnibus. Just thinking about this series from my youth has me eager to see how it all ended and how it all began anew.

For those not wanting to take a gnarly plunge into a massive series, it’s always possible to find a short zombie story or storyline in one of your own favorite existing comics. Marshal Law (written by Pat Mills, illustrated by Kevin O’Neill, published by DC Comics), my favorite post-apocalyptic anti-hero comic, is a humorous, sarcastic critique of the superheroes and their nonsensical stories and featured zombie heroes in The Hateful Dead. I will definitely touch upon the good Marshal in another chapter, as I love all of his appearances, but just know he gets to slap some zombies around and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Speaking of fun, and another title that will get a couple extended mentions in the future, is The Goon, which sees the goonish Goon and his pal Frankie fighting the Zombie King, zombie mobsters, fishmen, robots, hobos, and all sorts of oddball characters in a humorously written and gorgeously illustrated series by superstar Eric Powell. Finally, with the dreaded holidays rapidly approaching, you might just want to see what happens when Jolly Ol’ St. Nick has to take on the wicked dead with guns and knives and whatever comes to his mittened hand in The Last Christmas (written by Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, illustrated by Rick Remender, published by Image Comics). There are plenty of other fine zombie books out there, but those are for another day.

The Week’s Reading List

Strikeforce: Morituri Volume 1 (Written by Peter B. Gillis, illustrated by Brent Anderson, published by Marvel Comics) I really don’t know how this gem got by me back when it came out in 1986, but after hearing some of my comic book buddies heap tons of praise on the series, coupled with a massive digital sale at Amazon, I decided to give it a shot; I’m glad I did. After an alien invasion pummels the Earth, humanity decides to strike back with a might of their own. Through the Morituri process, carefully chosen soldiers are given immense strength and endurance as well as other random abilities. This is good. This is great. There’s only one drawback: the process will kill the host at some point before a year has passed. Anderson’s art is stunning, the story and characters are compelling, and the mystery of never knowing when a hero’s time is over creates tremendous tension throughout. It’s startling when one character can be saving the day one moment only to have their life extinguished immediately afterwards. I have heard the last third of the series whiffs after a creative team change, but I definitely need to see what happens up until then.


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