Thursday, May 20, 2010

I, Zombie #1

DC Comics/Vertigo, 22 pages, $ 1.00

Writer: Chris Roberson
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Todd Klein

As you'd expect from a comic book with art by Mike and Laura Allred, I, Zombie, the latest Vertigo series promoted with a low-priced debut issue, looks quirky and dynamic, with settings that lend the story the required authenticity and characters that appear real and alive in how they are designed and how they "move," within panels and from one to the next.

Which is appropriately ironic, I suppose, given that the lead character is a zombie. Gwen Dylan, as she is called, works at a cemetery, lives in a crypt and hangs out with other creatures of the night. To maintain a healthy physique, she needs to feed on the brains of the recently deceased from time to time.

The charming part is that Gwen looks and behaves like a perfectly normal person when she's not, you know, digging up corpses or talking to ghosts. She's a bit pale and looks like she could really use a break, perhaps, but other than that, her condition—and the rest of the supernatural elements—are pleasantly understated most of the time. Chris Roberson, whose work I don't think I'm familiar with, seems to have fun using these elements as metaphors for everyday social interaction, and the creators get some great mileage out of that in the story's best moments.

While the characters are fun to look at and read about, though, by the end of the issue I'm wondering whether Mr. Roberson has chosen the right kind of framework for them.

For one thing, I can tell you the big revelation at the end of issue #1 without spoiling anything, because anyone who's read the advertisements or the title or looked at the cover already knows what it is: Gwen is a zombie! It's bafflingly anticlimactic, which is not the best impression to leave an audience with at the end of a first issue. The other problem is that the last page suggests a direction for the series that, frankly, doesn't seem all that interesting, or all that relevant to the themes established in the first 20 pages.

I, Zombie looks great and has an intriguing cast, and the page-to-page business is told in a delightful, entertaining fashion. There's a lot to like here. Then again, a last-page reveal that's so unsurprising as to be almost willfully ineffectual leaves me wondering whether anyone thought this through very well. And ultimately, I don't know that I'm very interested in seeing these characters solve the mystery of the month, evidently for no other reason than because it provides a handily rigid structure for a series.

In a best-case scenario, we could be heading for a more morbid take on Peter Milligan's Human Target, I suppose, where the character tries to learn something about her own identity by closely examining the lives of others. But this issue hardly makes a compelling or convincing enough case for any of that, either. 

(By the way, I'm not quite sure what precisely the title is meant to be. The cover reads "iZombie"; according to the indicia, it's "I, Zombie"; and the editorial page uses both at different points.)

Grade: C+

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