Chances are you’ve never read a Deadworld comic. Writer Gary Reed knows that, hence why in the description for Issue #1 it states ‘This new series of Deadworld is perfect for new readers to join in the frenzy of what has been called the “grand-daddy” of all zombie comics.’ The forward in this trade has the writer talk in detail about the making of War of the Dead, further saying how he wanted to make this accessible to new readers, but not a reboot. It’s no surprise that zombies and vampires are the two main fads these days. (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the upcoming World War Z adaption is proof of this.) Reed even states in the forward that there were people who thought this series was jumping on the zombie bandwagon. (The forward is really an interesting read, especially if you’ve already read this mini-series.) When collected into one big book, Deadworld: War of the Dead makes a great story in one sitting. There’s a lot of zombie tales out there, and this one has a lot of the same things. There are zombies throughout and humanity is struggling to survive, but past that, there are many unique things about the book. Longtime zombie fans will like it, and even people whom have never read a story or seen a movie with the undead will enjoy it!
Here’s the official trade paperback description from IDW:
The undead have overrun the Earth! A small outpost, remnants of a twisted scientist’s scheme to defeat the plague, holds out against the army of King Zombie with their secret weapon, the Lepers – victims of a bizarre experiment that left them with dead flesh in breathing husks that even zombies won’t touch.
There are quite a few characters in this story. Let’s talk about the Lepers. These guys (and girls) were the victims of experiments. Yes, despite the world being a deadzone, people could be monsters also. The Lepers have had their skin destroyed since they were injected with leprosy. Simply put, they appear dead, but have life on the inside. The Zombies can’t sense them because of the leprosy, makes for an interesting plot detail. The leader of the resistance is Mike, whom I’d call the most likable character in the whole thing. Instead of wallowing in his condition, he understands the situation and strives to lead. Rand is his partner, whom also serves as leader. You can tell these two are friends thanks to the way they speak to each other. Other characters pop up later, such as Dan. Ironically, according to the narration boxes, he feels more alive in the Deadworld. It’s really interesting how the narration boxes describe these things. Zombie fans know the drill, they know how the undead behave and act. But here Reed describes them in such detail, detail that I’ve never read before. They’re mindless things, but what’s said gives them a depth never before seen in other media.
The factor separating this from other Zombie stories, (and my personal favorite thing about War of the Dead) is King Zombie. By the name, you can obviously tell he’s king of the zombies. What’s so cool about that you ask? He gives the zombies purpose. This isn’t just the humans surviving against legions of the undead, there’s a guy behind the scenes with a goal. It gives the story a true villain, and that’s the main thing I like about it. Reed writes him devilishly good. He’s not an ultra serious evil mastermind, rather he has a dark humor persona, rides on a motorcycle, (which I think he stole from Ghost Rider) and will laugh in your face at how futile your attempts are to stop him. With any scene he’s in, it’s awesome. Deake is also apparently a huge character in this. Sadly he does absolutely nothing. He apparently holds the key in his knowledge, but that isn’t played out. I would have liked to see more of this guy. Donna is the other major character. She definitely has the most impressive entrance, slicing off a few zombie heads clean with her sword. If that’s not awesome, I don’t know what is. But she’s more than a samurai girl, turns out there’s a zombie inside of her, and the only thing keeping her from going undead is the zombie’s daughter. It’s quite an interesting plot point.
The artwork by Sami Makkonen deserves great praise. I understand why some would be turned off by it, but really, it compliments the grim story well. The action is very gritty, and the art fits it perfectly. It’s like Gothic coloring of a black and white story. (Probably doesn’t make sense, but that’s the best I got in describing it.) The pace moves extremely well, with each character getting their own moments. I’ve said this before, but it deserves mention again, the dialogue is great and keeps you reading. After the devastating zombie attack, Bowker, (whom is a jerk, but a pretty well-written one) asks the Zombie King if another attack is the next step in the plan. The King responds that yes, that would be seem like the thing to do, but he’s not here to destroy them. Just make them desperate. Some of the images are pretty haunting, once again, the art succeeds in making the zombies look like truly deformed things that have no soul. One image that stood out to me was the metaphor when the dialogue said about Donna “Tentacles ooze from her thoughts…slithering,” and then in the background it actually shows octopus tentacles. I don’t think I quite caught that upon first reading it, truly a cool little thing adding to the scene.
Overall, there aren’t many negative things to say about Deadworld: War of the Dead. It’s a fast paced zombie story, but isn’t mindless. (Pardon the joke.) The writing is fantastic, the art fits it perfectly, and the characters are really interesting. Granted, in the fifth issue, people may be disappointed at how some of the characters end. (And I also can’t get past Donna’s Darth Vader nooooo!) But it doesn’t destroy the story. Sadly, there isn’t really an ending, something I complained about in my review of Issue #5. Thankfully however, there’s an afterward by Gary Reed, detailing on a few things about the future, which was a nice touch. Deadworld isn’t over, I look forward to seeing what comes next. Looking for a really good zombie story other than The Walking Dead? Pick up the War of the Dead trade, you will not be disappointed.