In the early 2000s, zombie crossovers were all the rage with the kids. Differing slightly from the zombie mash-up, where the undead are inserted in a known story as the story itself is re-imagined, the zombie crossover is a much more flexible event: put our favorite reanimated creatures into the realm of an existing fictional universe and let the mayhem begin.
We’ve seen the zombie crossover with quite a few properties recently, most notably those in the sci-fi realm (and many of them featured in my previous Throwback Thursday columns): to name just a few, Star Wars has the novel “Death Troopers,” Star Trek has the not-quite-canon book “Night of the Living Trekkies,” and IDW Entertainment featured a massive intra-company crossover where zombies featured in their “licensed” comic book properties of ‘G.I. Joe,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Transformers,’ and ‘Ghostbusters.’
The result of zombie crossovers, much like mash-ups, meet with mixed success: if done correctly, with the appropriate amount of intelligence and respect for the “home” property, these stories can be very entertaining and a great “what if” to let fans see how characters they know and love in one environment might react to an undead menace. The boundary between doing a crossover or mash-up because someone wants to create an amazing story versus the desire to cash in and “make a quick buck” off of the current popularity of zombies is a fine line, and usually, the savvy zombie fan can tell which is which pretty quickly.
It was with more than a little caution, then, that I approached my reading of the graphic novel “Battlestar Galactica: Cylon Apocalypse.” ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ or ‘BSG’ for short, is a uniquely iconic science fiction franchise: starting in the late 1970s, the TV show revolved around the premise that the remnants of 12 human colonies, recently decimated by an attack from a vicious robotic race called Cylons, were on the run and desperately seeking contact with the “lost” 13th colony, Earth. In the 2000s, ‘BSG’ recently enjoyed a great revival as a new, critically-acclaimed TV series that ran for six excellent seasons, and I had the pleasure of watching (and enjoying) both the original series and the new series during their respective times on the air. Unlike ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Star Wars,’ which both have vast universes filled with a myriad of characters and situations, ‘BSG’ had always been a very “streamlined” continuity with very little wiggle room for experimental or “alternate universe” stories, such as the inclusion of zombies. Could this story respect its source material while not feeling forced at the same time?
While I wasn’t exactly blown away, the story of “Cylon Apocalypse” certainly felt like it fell right in line with the “classic” ‘BSG’ TV series. The crew of the Galactica discovers a Cylon base starship where the Cylons are fighting amongst themselves, an odd thing for a hive-like cybernetic race to do. Upon further exploration, “a nano-cybrid” – a combination of nanotechnology and genetic engineering – has been engineered to attack individual Cylons and revery them back to their primitive, reptilian forms. The nano-cybrid, however, is not working as intended and is feeding off of Cylon energy to mutate Cylons it comes into contact with into hulking, monstrous, half-organic half-robotic beasts bent on destroying all other living beings – Cylon zombies, if you will. Even though the nano-cybrid is helping to destroy their enemies, it’s up to the crew of the Galactica to stop it before it destroys them all.
The story, set over 4 issues of the comic, is a fast-paced adventure that feels like it would fit right in with the “vibe” of the classic ‘BSG’ series. Extra kudos to the writers for incorporating other aspects of the ongoing ‘BSG’ storyline into this series to make it feel like it is truly part of the ‘BSG’ continuity instead of a “one-off” tale that is so detached from the ‘BSG’ canon that a reader might question whether it truly happened at all. I’m not sure what the lag time was between individual issues, but as a collected graphic novel, the story flowed very smoothly.
‘BSG’ being a “contained” property, this is obviously the only place where a reader can get the exposure of these characters in a “zombie story,” so the uniqueness of this storyline is obviously very high. The zombies in question here do stretch the definition of what counts as a zombie – but they are inhumane monsters, largely lacking the capacity for rational thought, with an insatiable need to destroy all living things they encounter… sounds like zombies to me!
Within the realm of the ‘BSG’ universe, this story fits in fairly nicely. There are, however, some questions that go unanswered, such as why the Cylons would invent this nano-cybrid in the first place, and why the Colonial Warriors neither attempted to utilize the virus to target only Cylons or why the virus was never referenced at any other point in the ‘BSG’ continuity. As with many zombie stories, the logistics on this one are far from perfect, but they are largely manageable for this particular storyline.
All in all, this is a fun entry into the “zombie crossover” realm. “Cylon Apocalypse” should appease fans of ‘BSG,’ although folks who are not overly familiar with the source material may find themselves a little confused by who these people are and what they are trying to accomplish. But this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a “true” zombie story set in the ‘BSG’ universe, so I for one will take what I can get.