Welcome to the Comic Archive! There have been so many amazing stories, characters, and series produced from comic book publishers for almost 100 years now; this column will serve to celebrate some of the tales you may or may not know about. Each week, we’ll take a story arc or trade paperback/collected story from a non-new comic (three years old or further back), and discuss the details with you.
Interesting title, I thought to myself, so I picked it up to see more. Only $8.95, I further thought, what a bargain! I can’t afford NOT to buy this. (I saw this to myself quite often, about a variety of items.) As I’ve noted in previous Comic Archive entries, the danger of grabbing a random book from a smaller, more “independent” publisher is an extremely hit-or-miss exercise (see the reviews of ‘Airship Enterprise‘ and ‘Zombies!: Eclipse of the Undead‘ for further info here). This graphic novel was made by Dark Horse Comics, and it’s written by Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, and those comics and movies are pretty okay… so let’s take a stab with this series. What could go wrong here?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: nothing is really wrong with this book, but nothing is really right, either. The art looks great and very stylized, but the story is all over the place; inconsistencies and plot holes abound, and I got the feeling while reading the book that this story was probably slapped together in order to get this book out quick enough to ride the “zombie wave” of popularity (this story was first released in individual-comic form way back in 1997, and the graphic novel I read was a 2005 reprinting, so perhaps the haberdash-ed feeling of the story actually cannot be attributed to rushing the book for release during the “zombie craze” of the mid-2000s, and instead it’s just poor editing).
“Z:CotW” is a convoluted tale about an ancient priest that is accidentally reincarnated in the present day. Okay, so actually he’s not totally dead, because he was never killed, he’s just spent that last few millennia hanging out in his coffin, chillaxing or whatever. A team of “specialists” magically shows up at the museum he is currently wreaking havoc in; they are there to help deal with the threat, and problems of course ensue. I use term “specialists” loosely, as the team is comprised of a group of four characters that aren’t given much backstory (and as a result, I found it difficult to identify with or care about them), but as I understand it, they are a professor who seems to know everything about this undead threat and his forgotten-to-everyone-else civilization, a big strong guy, a blind guy that can project himself in a ghostly form, and a token girl without any discernible “powers.” Nobody outside of the museum believes what the team tells them about the threat until gargantuan worms start coming out of the ground – and I do mean gargantuan, as the “iconic” image from this book is a worm wrapping himself around various Washington D.C. monuments. Oh, and there are zombies, too…somehow. I guess the priest really likes worms and the undead?
“Z: CotW” was designed to be the beginning of an ongoing story that could spawn multiple volumes and sequels. All I could find online was a series of four one-shot comics that followed this story, so apparently the popularity of this series wasn’t quite where Dark Horse wanted it to be.
The story, while having its inconsistencies, does have some entertainment value. The artwork of the book was created in a similar vein of the “Hellboy” comics, having a very retro block-ish, EC-Comics type of feel to it. The story does keep you flipping the pages wondering what will happen next, even if the ending is totally anticlimactic in the book’s attempt at setting itself up for a sequel. The fun parts of the story and the good visuals, sadly, can’t make up for the plot holes and glaring problems contained within the flimsy story.
While the inclusions of the backstory of the ancient civilization and the monster worms in the present are high points in this Originality category, the overall score is brought down by using zombies as an after-thought. They are standard undead fare here, and quite frankly, as a zombie fan I’m a little insulted at the fact that they feel like a “throw-away” aspect of the story – we true horror fans demand better treatment and more respect of our undead! :)
I didn’t care about any of the characters, didn’t really believe what they were saying, and didn’t believe that bystanders and the government/authority types would truly react the way they do when faced with this supernatural threat. The whole thing just felt… fake to me. What this book loses in story problems it makes up for in the visual stylizing given to us by the artists. It really is a beautifully-drawn book that harkens back to the “old-school” feel of what the pulp comics gave us.
This book is nowhere near as bad (or as insulting to its readers) as other independent comic-book stories have been (I’m looking at you, ‘Zombies!: Eclipse of the Undead’), but it’s definitely not anything to stand and cheer about either. If you’re a hard-core Mignola fan or a zombie fan, this one might be worth seeking out, otherwise – there are far better trade paperbacks out there for you to sink your teeth into.
Got a comic, character, or story arc that you’d like to see covered by the Comic Archive? Feel free to list it in the Comments below or send your recommendation directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – see you in the funny papers!