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Sunday Slugfest - Xombie #1 (of 6)

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2007
By: Keith Dallas

Writer: James Farr
Artist: Nate Lovett

Publisher: Devilís Due





Average Rating:

Bruce Logan:
Chris Murman:
Kevin Powers:






Bruce Logan:

My ďfirstĒ reading of Xombie #1 was as a total newbie. Why I mention and emphasize first is because for my second (and subsequently third) visit to this opening installment of this six-issue miniseries I wasnít as much a newcomer to the Xombie-verse as I was the first time around. By that, I do not mean my previous reading of this issue but rather the animated Flash toons available at Xombie Online (www.xombified.com). Even though I do not know the exact ending of the first (animated) Xombie story, the timeline and events of this issue gave me a general idea about it. The animated toons also helped answer any questions about the characters (their origin, past, dynamic, etc.) this issue raises.

The issue starts with the obligatory opening narration. The readers are brought up to speed with the situation of the world as it is in year 2052. Zombies have taken over with all but a few ďliveĒ human settlements remaining. It is at one of these settlements (or at least its residents) that the story gets kicking, or rather shooting when the ďout on a missionĒ human convoy is waylaid by one of the undead, one who is different from your average mindless lethargic eating-machine zombie. This zombie does not bite or maul the humans to take them down; he does so in a rather un-zombie manner. He shoots them. Heck, he didnít even eat them afterwards. Well, not as far as I know.

A quick change of scene and we are introduced to one of the main protagonists of the series (and also the animated toons): a teenage girl named Zoe. With the news of the massacre reaching the settlement, the authorities there are more than a little nervous, especially because of the mission that the ten-man contingent was on. Read the issue for more on the mission. Their nervousness leads to them call upon Zoe. At this point I got the impression that maybe Zoe is going to some sort of a kickass black-ops or a genetically engineered or a cybernetically enhanced character, all three of which would have been lame. However, just when my interest seemed ready to a taking a dive, writer James Farr gave both Zoe and the story a twist that had me sitting up and taking notice. Veteran Xombie fans wouldnít be as surprised by it for both Zoe and the reason for her being called upon were dealt with in the previous story. Nevertheless, for new readers (like me) this approach sets Xombie apart from your usual run-of-the-mill Zombie tales.

The revelation itself is something that Iíll let you all find out by yourselves. However, it does have a rather energizing effect on Zoe who, as we learn, had some rather difficult times after the first Xombie story (which happened a decade or so back in Xombie time).

With the (living) character introductions done with, the rest of the issue is devoted towards those of the dead and undead kind, both veterans of the first Xombie story. The last page gives the usual cliffhanger style ending, although in keeping with the general mood of the story, it too has a sizeable sprinkling of humor to go with the danger salad.

As with the writing the artwork of Xombie #1 is also totally non-dead (i.e. it is lively and fast paced). Even though initially the background colors do feel a tad drab, one becomes used to them pretty soon. Then again given that it is depicting an apocalyptic dystopian future, the drabness is quite apt. I especially liked the cartoonish style of the artwork which is similar (in spirit, mood and/or overall ambience) to the one in the Flash toons.

I would give Xombie #1 a full rating if not for one minor niggle: itís a little confusing for a new reader. For anyone reading this, I would suggest you check out the animated toons. Along with being enjoyable by themselves, they also help for a better (possibly complete) understanding of this issue.

Conclusion: Speaking as someone who is not a fan of the whole Undead genre (comic, movie or otherwise), I would rank Xombie #1 among my top three Zombie-reads. What sweetens the deal even more is that it can be read by the younger demographic too. This could very well be a classic in the making.

You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net




Chris Murman:

I need to say first off that I am not a zombie genre fan. I find certain movies entertaining, but only when they make fun of themselves. Sean of the Dead and Bubba Ho-tep are two of the funniest movies I have seen, but again they are not what I consider ďseriousĒ zombie flicks. I mention this only because this book had that working against itself in my mind before I read it. With that in mind, I feel this book really introduced itself very well and told a great story and actually had me wanting to know more.

If you like this genre, you probably could do worse than this book. This title seems to me to be a zombie series that wants to take itself seriously, even though it seems to be screaming not to in many parts.

This story is shaping up to be a Lion and the Mouse type of story weíve seen in many incarnations. Dirge is the lion, a sentient zombie who is the only one who can help out humans who are desperate to stave off extinction in a world full of the undead. Zoe is the mouse, the only human whoís ever seen a sentient zombie. Sheís needed to find Dirge.

Apparently, Mark Wahlbergís Shooter character has turned into a member of the undead and is hunting them down with his bolt action rifle and crow (no word on whether or not the crow can see for this uber-zombie).

See what I mean? This book canít be taking itself seriously.

I will say, for this being the first book Iíve read with Lovettí s name attached to it, the artwork is rather pleasing. Itís easy to see that the penciler has a background in animation. It will definitely help to have Tim Seeley on covers as well.

One aspect that I appreciated from the writer was the classroom scene that provided some obvious but great background info on what makes the undead different than us puny humans. The idea that all we have to do in order to stay hidden from zombies was to plug their noses is actually quite good.

I donít really suppose I can gripe a ton about this book. Itís pacing is very good, being just fast enough for my tastes. The art is great, with a Saturday morning feel to it. Maybe itís my feelings about the genre mixed in that is giving me fits. Iíve only liked zombie stories when Iím laughing at them, so I wonít pretend the prejudice isnít there. I think there is a lot to like about this title, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has to have all the zombie stories they can handle.

I would have just enjoyed my laughter more if it was meant to be intentional.




Kevin Powers:

Usually, I donít delve into the realm of zombies or hobbits. I donít mind vampires or even werewolves, but for some reason zombie stories donít always register with me. Some people know that I am a big comic book junkie, yet Iím not fond of the Lord of the Ring saga or horror movies that usually involve zombies. But every now and then there is a story (a comic book, movie or otherwise) that really hits the right mark. Take Evil Dead, for example. A genuine classic as far as movies go, and one of the few movies involving zombies and demons that really clicks with me. Ghostbusters and the great video game Zombies Ate My Neighbors are often the type of paranormal stories that I like. I guess what Iím trying to get at is that I like my zombies with a level of humor or suspension of disbelief that goes behind the dead rising from the grave. Iíve been vaguely familiar with Xombie. Iíve known about Devilís Due releasing the comic, and Iíve been aware of the animated flash online series. Because I believe most of what Devilís Due puts out is pure gold, Iíve been waiting for Xombie for quite sometime.

I felt that the best way to go into the comic book was to not read the illustrated book nor watch the animated series. Sometimes the best way to go reviewing a comic book is to isolate it from its background history and previous stories in other media. The reason for approaching this book in such a way is simple: to answer the question ďDo I need to know anything about this title before I read?Ē For Xombie The answer is a quick one: No. It wasnít until after I read this comic that I went back and watched the animated series and found the original book on the shelf in my local comic store. Rarely does a zombie story interest me enough to the point where I make an effort to catch up completely and figure out everything Iíve missed.

Easily the best quality of this book is indeed the fact that you donít need a whole lot of background information. Writer James Farr does a phenomenal job summing up the bookís world within one page. Farrís description and artist Nate Lovettís depiction of a barren, forgotten, almost abandoned Earth are enough to set the dark futuristic tone of this book. But rather than going too in depth about where we are and what has happened over roughly 50 years, Farr takes us right into the bulk of the story. The one thing that really appeals to me about this title is that the only two things you need to be aware of are that this takes place in a future overrun by zombies and that zombies are the dead risen.

Whatís most interesting is that humans are in the minority and obviously for every human killed, a zombie is born. Farr presents an idea that is fresh, new and entertaining world that is both dark and a bit preposterous to the point that you canít help but love it. The idea of humans retreating to the underground is reminiscent of ďZionĒ from The Matrix series; however in this particular instance, that idea is used much better here than in The Martix.

This is one comic book that I really donít want to spoil because I really feel that it is very entertaining, the premise is original, fresh, dark and fun, and it might just make you find the animated series as well as the original graphic novel. Devilís Due really hits a home run by picking up the Xombie idea, and James Farr really delivers here. I really canít say enough about the premise and the imagery, and the best part about it is that you donít need to know the ins and outs and the whole history of these characters.

The artwork is also quite fitting for this series. To me it resembles the style of Bruce Timm, Phil Hester, Ryan Ottley and the style of the Kim Possible cartoons. I really liked it because as serious as the story in this issue was supposed to be, it is far-fetched and it is fantastic, but the art just creates an association with the cartoon. Itís an animated style that really adds a lot to this book. The imagery, while animated, is still stunning. For example, the first few pages feature a zombie that looks like the dead version of Clint Eastwoodís immortal ďMan With No Name.Ē

Thereís little to nothing I did not like about this title. Itís fun, itís fresh, and itís different. Itís one of those series that makes you wish there was more. For example, I never started reading Invincible until well after 20 issues of the series had been published. After I read it I couldnít get enough and bought every trade and read them over the course of two days. Xombie is one of those series that makes you want more, so check out this book, the animated series and the previous graphic novel. Devilís Due has struck gold again.



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