About a week and a half ago, I read the first collected volume of Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s iZombie comic. I enjoyed the book, wrote a glowing review, and posted it—and then about 30 minutes later, my older daughter, Frankie, drove over to my house with the second volume of the series! (She’d read my review and saw that I wanted to read more…)
Chris Roberson and Michael Allred (with Gilbert Hernandez) – iZombie: uVampire (2011)
In this volume of the series, we learn that our zombie hero, Gwen, is having trouble finding a brain to eat because a number of bodies have gone missing from the local morgues (and, hence, there are no bodies to bury—and then UNbury.) If Gwen doesn’t eat a brain once a month, she starts to lose her coordination, her memories, and her humanity. And, as we learn as the story unfolds, some major portions of her past have already begun to disappear.
This book also introduces a few new characters, including a sinister, seemingly ageless woman, Galatea, who is working towards some kind of apocalyptic, Lovecraftian goal. Another new face is Marvin, the grandfather of Scott (the were-terrier), who dies, becomes a disembodied spirit, and then follows Scott around until he finds himself trapped in the body of a chimpanzee. Scott, after realizing his grandfather’s ghost is inside the chimp, breaks him out of the zoo and takes him home, where he makes bad jokes, smokes cigars, and tells Scott to grow up and quit messing around with comic books and role-playing games.
What I enjoy about this series is the overwhelming feeling of the UNEXPECTED. All of the characters are interesting, and the situations in this volume build very well from the previous episodes, but not in ways that I could have predicted. In addition, being from the Pacific Northwest, it’s always cool seeing places that I’ve actually visited in the stories that I’m reading, and it was especially exciting seeing Eugene’s Awesome Comics feature so heavily in the tale! I’ve bought many ‘o book from that store myself!
Another cool twist was the addition of an issue drawn by another legendary artist, Gilbert Hernandez (of Love & Rockets fame, and brother of Jamie Hernandez, who I got to meet a few days ago at the Emerald City Comic Con—which doesn’t have anything to do with THIS book… I do wish I’d taken the time to wait in line and chat with Mike Allred at the show—maybe I’ll get another opportunity someday.) Hernandez draws the final episode of this collection, which was a weird mish-mash of art styles and stories, moving from Harvey-esque humor (a la Casper the Friendly Ghost or Hot Stuff the Little Devil) to a very cool, simplified almost 1930’s comic strip style, to his straight up, Love & Rockets line—and each section was great! Hernandez has a command of form, and his panels are both simple and incredibly emotive. Great stuff!
As of this moment, I still haven’t seen the television series, but at this point I don’t really feel like I need to. The comic story is satisfying enough. Apparently, the series ran from 2010 to 2012, but there are at least two more collections available, and as long as Roberson and Allred remained involved with the series, I’m willing to drop the cash and see where they went with it. As with the previous collection, however, I should mention that this IS a zombie story, with brain eating and some disturbing, twisted artwork—which Allred draws to perfection…if rotting flesh and eyes drooping from sockets can be perfect. The book DOES have a “Mature Readers” notice on it, and for good reason. But honestly, the book isn’t THAT gory, and anybody looking for Lucio Fulci style grossness is going to be disappointed. For me, the book strikes a nice balance between the humor and horror elements, bordering on the absurd at times, but that doesn’t really bother me. (I love absurdism.) If you’ve read the first book and liked it, I’m sure you’ll like the second. If you HAVEN’T read the first collection, however, I wouldn’t recommend jumping right in with this one. It’s best to start at the beginning when you’re diving into a story this strange…
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Commander in Cheap of The P.E.W.)