The Last Zombie #1
By Brian Keene and Joe Wight
The Last Zombie – another zombie book that asks the question “what happens after the initial outbreak?”. Set in a post apocalyptic United States where the zombies, wild animals and gangs of survivors all hold their own particular dangers. The story follows Dr. Ian Scott (Keene’s obviously a big Anthrax fan) in his journey from California to New York to get back to his beloved fiancé housed at another government facility.
Brian Keene is a well-known and accomplished horror writer and there is a rule of thumb that being a good novelist doesn’t automatically mean you can write comic books – since all too often writers forget that it’s a completely different medium and the skills involved in bringing together both words and visuals are completely different from those required for straight prose. But thankfully Keene seems more than capable than switching to the demands of writing a fine zombie comic and in such a manner that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this optioned as a movie soon enough (which seems to be the ultimate measure of success in the comics world nowadays).
Keene opens his first attempt at an ongoing comic book by talking in his introduction about the saturation of all things zombie across all media. With The Walking Dead being the biggest title in the world of zombie comics not much could match up to that and Keene himself admits it. But I think he’s being a little hard on himself; yes it’s true that Walking Dead has really set a high water mark for all things zombie, but Keene could be onto something that could potentially put The Last Zombie right up there with Kirkman’s zombie series.
With so much time and success in the novel writing world there should be one thing that Keene can write and that’s dialogue. All of the characters in this book react with each other perfectly and you certainly believe Scott’s love for his fiancé and the reasons for his desperate cross continent journey. The plot itself may be something we’ve seen before but it’s what Keene can do with this formula that could make all the difference.
(Oh yes – “the whole world’s gone to shit” indeed – From The Last Zombie #1 by Brian Keene and Joe Wight, published Antarctic Press)
The black and white artwork is certainly very nice when focused on things that are close up and when looking at something further off not as much detail is used. Some would think that this is a lazy tactic used by artists but I think it adds to the art because the human eye doesn’t see everything far away in perfect detail. Details within comic book art are very important but so is the idea of perspective, which some artists seem to forget about.
The art isn’t really traditional in the sense of comic book art. Joe Wight acts as penciller, inker and even colourist (in a sense). Everything looks like it is drawn in pencil and instead of inking Wight looks as though he’s used his pencils to create all of his inking effects and shading in place of colours. This gives the book a very different feel to most comic books and it certainly adds to the experience.
There is one flaw with the artwork that some people would think isn’t all that important but I think a good comic is the culmination of every aspect working together. Wight is acting as not only artist but letterer as well (it isn’t listed in the credits but neither is a letterer identified) and that’s the weakest aspect of the comic, with an annoyingly unusual “e” character. It sounds insignificant, but time and again, I found it dragging me out of the moment and makes you realize you are indeed reading a comic thus breaking your concentration and spoiling the experience.
(Tense scenes in the sit-room, and that strange affectation with the “e”s – From The Last Zombie #1 by Brian Keene and Joe Wight, published Antarctic Press)
The Last Zombie feels like it’s going to deliver both horror with action perfectly with some romance thrown in for good measure, three different genres that we rarely see working together in any medium let alone comic books. This first issue is good and this first five issue series looks like it has the potential to be great. (Keene has already talked of having a 50 issue story in mind – all made up of smaller story-arcs)
I personally hope we see Keene continue to work in the format of comics: The only real question we have to ask is why has one of the authors responsible for bringing zombies back into vogue taken so long to try his hand at comics properly, a format he was so obviously made for.