Three for Thursday: Independent Comics Review: Zombie Horror Rules


Each week, we investigate comics from publishers that aren’t from the Big Two. As usual, we look at three.

Winterworld: Frozen Fleet #3 (of 3)
Writer: Dixon, Chuck
Artist: Polls, Esteve
Cover Artist: Zaffino, Gerardo
Published by IDW

After I read the first issue of Winterworld: Frozen Fleet, I thought I was done with the title. I did not see enough from it to think that I would pick up another issue. It seemed rushed. The characters came off more like caricatures; the lone, solitary hero and his orphaned charge against the world. Please. The derivative plot and post-apocalyptic setting that made little sense all left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt like a sucker, paying money for the comic.

But then I got to the comic shop yesterday. Usually I plan out my visits to my shop, Queen City Comics here in Cincinnati. But I have been rushed this week, unable to see beforehand what releases were due. I was going to wing it. I ended up spending more time in the shop than I had the past two months combined. Nothing jumped out at me. I kept going back to shelves hoping that I had missed something, looking behind the stacked comics, searching for those types of comics I love.

I came up very light in my take from the shop this week. And Winterworld #3 ended up going home with me.

The good news is that the comic is much better than the first issue. The creative team behind the series has fleshed out the world where Scully, the hero, and Wynn, his teenage charge, wander about. They have encountered a civilized bunch of survivors on a cruise ship and have teamed up with them. The bad news is that this comic continues to suck. The only thing I missed in skipping an issue, it seems, is that Scully and Wynn “made friends” with the survivors they find on the ship.

In fact, after reading Winterworld #3, the plot structure for the entirety of the three-issue series looks sort of like this:

Two people struggle to survive in a future that sees the Earth frozen all around. Bad guys chase them. They run, they find other survivors, but the bad guys catch up, killing most of the good guys. One of the two people gets kidnapped. The End.

Oh, and there was a pet badger involved. Sorry.

From IDW:

"Scully and Wynn’s stay on an ice bound ocean liner comes to an abrupt end with the arrival of an army of nomadic wasters"

68’ Last Rites #1 (of 4)
Writer: Kidwell, Mark
Artist: Zornow, Jeff
Cover Artist: Jones, Nate
Published by Image/Meatgrinder

Now 68’ Last Rites #1 is a comic that I can wrap my head around. Published by Image and Meatgrinder Studios, ’68 Last Rites continues a zombie story that began in 2006. Using the Vietnam War Era as the backdrop for their crazy, post-apocalyptic shenanigans, the creative team behind 68’ Last Rites has created a slew of interesting characters who try to make their way in the shadow of a zombie plague.

Having the story take place in the late 60s is a big part of the comic’s success. Mark Kidwell, the writer, and Jeff Zornow, the main artist, infuse themes that were particular to that time in America’s history into their comic. Richard Nixon takes a meeting with Charles Manson to plot the future. We run into Andy Warhol on the streets of Manhattan. And of course, the Vietnam War sort of binds the whole story together.

As a new reader to ’68, I can sense there is some story I have missed. The characters we meet, for example, have survived the beginning of the zombie plague. They have been together for a while, learning how to work together, learning how to see another day. The origins of the plague are not ever addressed, but it seems likely it began in Vietnam. Being thrust into the story at such a late date did not alienate me much as a reader. I have seen enough zombie stories to know how they work. Zombies show up, people survive or they do not (see Zombieland). It’s how creative teams approach that human dynamic of surviving while dealing with each other that has always drawn me to these kinds of stories. If done right (The Walking Dead), we get an intense examination of what it means to be “good” at the same time we get splattered with blood and gore.

’68 Last Rites moves along a bit too quickly with too many moving parts to set it up there with great zombie stories, but it does a pretty good job. It makes me think what other historical eras might be ripe for some zombie exploitation. Zombies in ancient Rome perhaps. I hear we will be getting a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in theaters soon. Since we have saturated our own time with so many versions of the zombie story, it makes sense that there will be attempts to frame this oh so popular vehicle in other ways. Of all the variations that I have seen, from partial zombies to warm-bodied zombies, I think I have my favorite variation figured out. Give me more period piece zombie stories in the vein of ’68 Last Rites.

From Image:

"Image Comics and Meatgrinder Studios proudly present the climactic mini-series that brings all current ’68 storylines full-circle with an explosive, revealing finish!"

Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot #1
Writer: Lemire, Jeff
Artist: Braithwaite, Doug
Cover Artist: Sandoval, Rafael
Published by Valiant

And finally for today, I would like to share my thoughts on the lone Book of Death title that I have read so far: The Fall of Bloodshot. I am hesitant, usually, to speak to Valiant books in my “Three for Thursday” articles. The characters and universe are too similar, I feel, to what Marvel and DC produce. And my goal for this weekly article has always been to share what I have uncovered outside of “mainstream” comic publishing. Valiant is different, but not so different.

Did I tell you I had a hard time finding comics to fit me this week?

Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot is one of several one-shots that Valiant is producing in tandem with their Book of Death series this summer. All the main characters in the Valiant universe, I understand, will get the honor of a comic showing how he (no she!) meets his death. It is an interesting, if not original hook.

And Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot works well enough. It gives readers what we like about Bloodshot: ample violence, Bloodshot kicking butt, Bloodshot covered in blood, and some violence. Oh, and we also see Bloodshot die. Doug Braithwaite, the artist, gives us a beautiful comic. It is a simple comic, rushing through a thousand years or so of Bloodshot’s future, but it is beautiful.

I think what may be fun is waiting for the inevitable trade compilation to come out, all the “Death of” books in one place. Getting to see not only Bloodshot, but X-O Manowar, Ninjak and others meet their final fates strikes me as perhaps the best way to consume this series of one-shots. Book of Death: The Fall of Bloodshot was fun enough, but it left me wanting more.

From Valiant:

"Superstar creators Jeff Lemire (BLOODSHOT REBORN) and Doug Braithwaite (IMPERIUM) chronicle Bloodshot’s ultimate fate in a visionary tale of present and future torn from the pages of BOOK OF DEATH!The lovers he’s known, the allies he’s trusted… All will eventually return to dust… But will the nanites that transformed Bloodshot – body, mind and soul – ever let him truly rest? For the very first time, read an essential chapter of the Book of the Geomancer as Project Rising Spirit’s ultimate walking weapon soldiers on from the modern day into the far future of the Valiant Universe…and reveals the truth behind the very last Bloodshot story that will ever come to pass…Don’t miss the never-before-revealed story of Bloodshot’s final adventures as BOOK OF DEATH foretells the devastating fate of Valiant’s unrelenting soldier … from now to a thousand years hence…"

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