‘Tis the season…for reading about ghosts and horror stories. (Technically, for me EVERY season is for reading about ghosts and horror stories, but you knew that…) For this week’s review, I’m looking at a graphic novel adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. It’s been REDONE about a million times already, but this time it has zombies in it! The book was given to me by my older daughter, Frankie, who spends a LOT of time at a cool comic shop in Vancouver, WA, called I Like Comics! (Maybe check them out if you’re in the area!) Thanks for the book, Frankie—and here we go!!!
Charles Dickens (reinterpreted by Jim McCann, David Baldeon, Jeremy Treece, etc.) – Zombies Christmas Carol (2011)
Although everyone has seen an adaptation of Dickens’ novella, whether the Beavis & Butthead version, or Scrooged with Bill Murray, or a local community theater rendition, I’m not sure how many modern folks have actually read the story. Dickens’ original book is decidedly dark, dealing with greed, withered emotions, supernatural horror, and death, and it’s actually a well written and interesting tale. (I’m going to have to reread and review the original real soon. It fits with our current “Haves vs Have Nots” society again…) So the original story, though considered a feel-good classic because of the redemption of Scrooge at the end, is actually a true horror story. Thus the Marvel Comics version isn’t completely out of left field.
In THIS rendition of the tale, Jim McCann, who wrote the script for the comic, adds a viral/spiritual zombie plague element to the familiar story, pushing the tale back to its more Victorian / gothic roots. The horror elements are more than just decorations, however, working on both a metaphorical level and as strong plot points. This retelling is moody and dark, and actually a lot creepier than I thought it was going to be! This is thanks to both the script writing AND the strong art.
The penciling duties for this story were shared by David Baldeon and Jeremy Treece, with inks provided by Jordi Tarragona and Roger Bonet, and despite the fact that the different sections have different art teams, the overall tone is quite consistent—it’s all dark and icky. The lines throughout the book are detailed and expressive, bringing to mind some of the “Good Old Days” of E.C.’s horror comics, with lots of Victorian flourishes, Expressionist shadows, and uncomfortable angles. And the zombies look great. The feeling that the “Hungry Dead” are right on the verge of taking over the population glooms through from the first few pages on. The ghosts, Marley and the Christmas spirits, are also quite well realized. I love the sort of horrific, pre-modern psych-ward look they gave to Marley, who is first shown with this vaguely freaky, caged helmet over his head… I think that most fans of horror comics will find a lot to enjoy in this book.
As far the zombie element is concerned, I’m probably not the only person in the world who is getting a bit tired of undead horrors, and I read this book mostly because my daughter gave it to me, but I’m glad I did. It’s a quick read, has a solid story (built on a classic structure, of course), and very good artwork and color. The end, which I didn’t expect, and which didn’t QUITE work for me, was okay, but the rest of the book was strong enough for me to overlook the somewhat flat finish. Was it NECESSARY for the creators to add zombies to this story? Not really, but since that’s the game they decided to play, and I knew the rules going in, it wasn’t too hard to play along. The book is dark, kind of sick, not TOO offensive, and has a handful of inexplicable moments, but overall, it’s a fun horror story. I’m sure I’ll read it again in a year or two.
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Grand Hoohaa of The P.E.W.)