3 / 5 – Worth a try if it sounds like your bag.
The subtitle of this book is Zombies versus Aliens but it should also mention the community of secessionists who don’t pay taxes and are heavily armed. This is an intriguing three-way premise but for my tastes the initial issue is a little too much set-up and I am unsure of the final tone of the book. Written by Chris Ryall with art by Drew Moss and colors by Jay Fotos, we open on some simian looking aliens exploring rural Montana for their first time. I like the design of the aliens which have a definite old time ’50s sci-fi feel to it both in the look and the “boldly going where no alien has gone before” feeling. They seem well-meaning and peaceful but their first contact is to use their tractor beam to accidentally ensnare the freshly buried body of the leader of the secessionist local town. The narration in the book is provided by the son of the leader. As the aliens in their ship flee, we see other corpses rising from the graves. We are then dropped into the politics of the town with two rival factions. The son of the patriarch is looking to move the community to a more sustainable environmental model which the more traditional members are rejecting. The ship crashes and the aliens flee the ship. A patrol of these townspeople run across them as they are running out of the ship. The zombie leaves the ship and bites a human in the neck. One alien trips and when his clear helmet smashes, he dies. One of the separatists pitchforks the zombie but that is only temporary and we see the zombie rise again. The book ends with two pages from Ryall explaining his approach on the book and showing some sketches.
Thanks to the final text piece, we are informed that Mr. Ryall was looking to have the secessionists be our protagonist. He deliberately mixes the left leaning style (live off the grid, sustainable) with the right leaning style (individual rights, believer in firearms). He has at least one minority candidate so we are to know that there is no formalized racist component to the separatists. Despite the pages spent, the community seems a little unlikely given the wide scope of differences in viewpoints. My limited exposure to the types does not conform to his take but that is one man’s view (and is another story for another time). He does a good job of driving home the tensions among the group but that premise does not provide much grist for my mill. Portraying the aliens as Star Trek style peaceful explorers puts them more in the protagonist role. Further, they are the only ones that have any humor to their dialogue. In his text piece, Mr. Ryall notes he was going for less of an “arch tone” than some of his previous work. Unfortunately the tone fails to get to more traditional horror. I think having the ’50s style alien explorer and traditional style zombies undercuts the point of trying to make the separatists the compelling, realistic protagonists. It seems to want it both ways, and to me the balance was not struck in a way that was compelling.
Drew Moss and Jay Photos do provides excellent art. The standard cover by Dave Sim shows our aliens looking in horror at a zombie. Due to my failure to buy-in to the multi-cultural, conflicting ideological community, a few minor inconsistencies nagged at me. The zombie (confirmed at the end to be the recently interred father of the narrator) is rotted to the extent that his ribs are showing with his face half rotted. If he was recently passed, one would imagine that his corpse would look more fresh, especially compared to the other corpses climbing out of their graves. They all appear to be more or less in the same state of decay. There is also an exchange about the significance of burying the father in a pine box when the others received nothing but a sackcloth however most of the corpses are in suits (and one dress that might be a sackcloth). None of these minor issues are fatal to the issue, but go more to the tone issue. If this was just a fun take (perhaps more “arch” in tone), those types of issues fall away. If he is looking to build a realistic, consistent world than those are more troublesome.
If the separatist community with two different ideologies as heroes idea seems appealing to you, pick up the book. You will likely not be disappointed with the art at a minimum. Issue 2 appears to be chock full of action as we have at least one attacking zombie already in the mix, so some of the story issues may fall to side in favor of zombie on alien on human fighting.
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