Wednesday, 29 April 2015

[Comic Review] - iZombie - Vol 1 : Dead to the World

Recently I saw a television show called iZombie. I wasn't that impressed really, in fact I kinda hated it. It reminded me of The Mentalist, or Monk or Forever, Castle, Bones.. etc etc.. the list just goes on and on. A cop procedural but with some kind of quirky third party helping the cops solve crimes. The escalation from private detective to immortal highlander or in this case, physic zombie is nothing more than a natural progression of "quirky 3rd party" in these procedural cop shows but at the core they are all the exact same show and have been for over half a century.

Suffice to say I didn't like the show. What I did like though was the chick who played the main character. I used to be in the punk scene way back in the 80s and early 90s and to this day have a soft spot for the Goth / Punk look, even a watered down version of those looks like in this show.

Sizzle... . . Don't judge me!

Basically I thought the main chick was hot. So as you do when a show has a hot chick in it, you google her. In my google search I found out that this show is based on a comic. A comic written by Chris Roberson, whom wrote an engaging short story called "O One" in a scifi anthology book I read once, "Live without a Net" which I quite liked as well as a number of cool comics like Fables. Considering myself a bit of a comic guy I thought.. "Hmm.. lets give it a go."

Let me start by saying loud and clear... "THE TV SHOW IS NOT ANYTHING LIKE THE COMIC". We are talking "Wanted" vs the film type level of "not the same". There are a few similar threads but pretty much 98% and more of the comic is unrelated to the TV show. So basically get the TV show completely out of your mind.

The first volume of the comic is pretty much all background and set up. While the threads of the larger world which the comic is set in is extrapolated, the general focus of this book is the characters themselves and not the events in which they exist. There is a larger plot as well as the start of what I assume will be the series wide threads but still the only thing this book concerns itself with really, is the development and the interaction of the personalities of the main players. This comic is very much like Scott Pilgrim or Ghost World, as it is a comic about 20 somethings and how they relate to others. The sardonic attitude of the main character Gwen is very reminiscent my mates daughter and one of the few things the TV show kinda got right.

The main conceit here is that Gwen (a twenty-something zombie) gains personality traits even memories form the brains she consumes. The metaphor is pretty thick, but not so heavy handed that it is off putting. A young women lost and directionless, whom has recently had huge changes in her life (becoming a zombie, or going to UNI, moving out of home) and who's entire personality alters through the influence of others, leaving her full of purpose and community only for it to fade into her "real" personality and she is then back to being as directionless as ever. Herself and a group of misfit friends hang out as she tries to avoid her fate to become a mindless zombie, or grow up and take on adult responsibilities depending on how you look at it.

Now this all sounds very boring but the comic is so well done. The art is off the chain. I mean, I haven't enjoyed art like this for a long time. I have often lamented the real loss that comics have endured by the modern habit of hyper-realism though digital art. It is so great to read a book that looks hand drawn again, that actually has some artistic stylisation to it. Saga is another great example of this, in fact there are a lot of similarities in style and humour between this and Saga, which is another comic I love. Still the drawing themselves are spectacularly good, and a special mention needs to be given to the colourist. In the trade volume there is a number of sketches before colouring, where you can really see the impact her vibrant block colours gives to the book.

iZombie has a strong humorous angle all though it. Like other comics of its type there is a kind of fatalism that is present in all facets of the comic. A character finding out his work mate is a werewolf is no more a cause for excitement than the latest computer game coming out on his console. Someone getting torn to bits in a bloody flurry barley needs a acknowledgement. The main characters have that "seen it all before" with that "nothing phases them" arrogance that is the purview of the young. I am sure people will see their own youth or their kids, probably both, in how these characters act. I found it rather charming and even had a few out loud chuckles on the way. Though the big take away is that all the monsters just want to live in peace, to be accepted for who they are and not to have to change for other, as they can't. Not really in this case anyway, you know... 'cause they're monsters.

What separates this comic and makes it readable compared to other "relationship" comics is that all this is hidden as a under-layer to the actual stories. What we in fact read in this volume is a Werewolf, a Ghost and a Zombie scoobydooing their way though a plot full of vampires, ancient mummies and watcher style monster hunters and a series of bizarre murders. The deeper implications of the subtext is exactly that, subtex and there is plenty to entertain in this one on the surface. The writing is punchy and fun and with the art being so easy to look at I found the pages turning fast and before I knew it the entire volume was done, and this is a 130 plus, page book.

I was absolutely shocked at how much I liked this comic. I mean seriously. I think this is easily one of the best comics I have read all year, with out a doubt and anyone that knows me knows I HATE zombies. I just found this fresh and interesting in a way that even the best soup comics just can never be.

Verdict: Highly Recommended

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