Review: Zombies Can’t Swim

Published On August 19, 2014 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Zombies Can’t Swim

By Kim Herbst

Borderline Press

zombies can't swim cover

So, have you ever wondered just what you might do in the impending Zombie apocalypse? Do you have the answers needed to keep you and yours safe and sound? Where would you secure safe haven? how about supplies? weapons?

Yes, these may or may not be questions you spend time pondering. Something in thes times almost the equivalent of casually musing on what you’d do with that lottery win.

Anyway, that’s the basis of the 40-ish pages of Zombies Can’t Swim, where two young types think about their response to the question whilst sat on a hill in the Japanese countryside. It’s effectively Herbst and her fiancée having a conversation they had one time when he was working in Japan and she was visiting (more on that here).

zombies 1

That same conversational tone continues all the way through, transforming Zombies Can’t Swim from a run of the mill by the numbers zombie comic (albeit one with some fine art which we’ll get to presently) into something with a real twist, all somewhat tongue in cheek with everything from this point on taking place as if the pair are merely speculating on what may have been, sounding for all the world as if they’re still sitting on that hill in semi-rural Japan abstractly discussing the idea rather than facing up to the undead on the rise.

Yep, that’s what Herbst planned and it certainly works well. When the Zombie horde does appear, the  tale unfolds, a what-if in pictures, a semi-serious instructional manual, Ikea instructions replaced with confident, kinetic artwork to tell this very fast tale, laden (quite deliberately) with genre clichés. We’re off on a near cheklist of zombie story moments; getting hold of weapons, a trip to a Walmart equivalent for bottled water, food, antibiotics, rope, batteries a must. Then it’s off to high ground, to the rooftops to await the rescue, careful to blockage the door to the roof of course. Ooops. Scratch one helicoptor. Isn’t that always the way?

But in the middle of that Herbst shows she has a keen idea of how to throw those clever bonus features into the mix, which is why we get more of an idea of things from a Japanese specific detail, no point choosing guns as weapons, simply as they’re aren’t that many in Japan and even if you could find one there’s a real scarcity of ammo. Swords are better, more efficient, although they do have their own particular problems – slash, don’t stab, these little instructional details – you’ll be thankful once the Zombie apocalypse comes knocking at your door.

See… slashing works…


… whereas a stabbing action can have some unfortunate retrieval problems.


Or even more interesting, something I’d not have thought of… keep away from areas in an infested Japan where tourists may have collected….


I figure that’s enough art to give you an idea of a couple of things going on here. I’m really keen on Herbst’s duo-tone style art here, that really kinetic style that’s perfect for keeping it all going yet allowing it to retain a sense of the balletic, the choreographed and posed, a grand trick to pull off. And then on top of that I think you’ll have to agree that Herbst has a great sense of comedy timing and a great way of delivering a joke through a facial expression and body language – just have a look again at that final panel above – that’s a good one.

All in all it’s a fun, slight piece of work, made so through a fast paced run through a veritable checklist of zombie clichés. But in doing that with a particularly neat twist in the telling and a particular skill in the artwork, it works, and works rather well.

Oh, one final piece of advice from the pair. If you get chance, find a boat. Why? Surely that’s obvious right from the start?

Zombies Can’t Swim is available from Borderline Press.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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