Monday, May 10, 2010

Summertime

Well, classes just finished up here, and I have no idea what to do with myself. I can travel! I can plan my weekends around farmers' markets instead of papers! I can go whole days without touching a computer! I can read! For fun! Books by living authors!

Whew.

So, as I sat in the apartment looking at the giant pile of stuff I want to read in the next couple months, I decided to have some fun and write a couple reviews for you guys as I go, in case you also have some free time just now and are looking for fun things to read. (You might want look here and here as well for cool reviews).

First up, (because who doesn't want to start the summer with zombie comics?):


[Spoiler alert!]
I wouldn't call myself a great reader of comic books (although my love for Batman has no bounds), but NPR's write-up of I, Zombie caught my attention:

"[A] mix of zombie girl detective, urban fantasy and romantic dramedy. Which, let's just note, is a lot to chew on already, and that's not even mentioning the wealth of densely quirky elements writer Chris Roberson tosses into the pot, which send the book soaring past merely "high-concept" into ... just plain high."

I mean, who doesn't think that sounds like awesome beach reading? But the bit that really got me interested was this:

"Our lead character? Gwendolyn "Gwen" Dylan. Gravedigger. Zombie.... Gwen must eat one brain a month 'or I go all mindless and shambling... When she eats said brain, she's flooded with its memories. If you guessed that these memories invariably set her on a path to solving mysteries, avenging deaths, etc. you've been reading ahead."

So, yeah. Of course I went and bought a copy. Duh. I love this whole zombie-infected-with-other-people's-memories thing, and I think that strong writing (which _I, Zombie_ may have, once it gets past some slightly shoe-horned exposition) can take it to really interesting places. It isn't doing that just yet; despite the title and cover art (incidentally, although I like both, the gorgeous alternative cover really gives a better sense of the tone of the comic so far), it takes most of the issue just to get to the whole "Gwen's a zombie" spoiler (which I'm kind of doubting will surprise many people who pick up the comic). So, the memory bit is one of the elements where Roberson hasn't yet given me enough to go on as I try to decide if this is a bus I want to ride. As the NPR reviewer says, "So long as Roberson keeps showing us that Gwen's got brains as well as braaaaaaaiiiiinns, I'll keep reading."

It's a very, very quick read. For someone who's more used to Sandman style complexities from graphic lit, this took a bit of adjustment. That's not to say quick and fun a bad thing. Actually, the pace and tone reminded me a lot of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer; despite a certain campy superficiality, there are threads that could lead to something darker and more interesting down the road. The relationship between the living and living-dead in the town and the other-people's-memories thing could bring some dark tension to an otherwise campy idea, depending on how they're handled. And, as with Buffy, despite some groan-inducing horror and comic-book cliches, there were a few self-aware nods to the conventions with-and-within which Roberson and Allred are playing (something I hope will be played up as the comic progresses).

I'm somewhat less optimistic about the vampire side-story so far, which seems slightly less self-aware and slightly more been-done-before than the rest. (Sexy, dominant woman turns out to be vampire, here, let me pretend to be surprised). There are also (of course) fan-service images that I could have done without, and I very much hope the were-terrier thing isn't meant to keep being funny, because really? A were-terrier?

On the whole, though, _I, Zombie_ definitely seems worth another try, and I'm looking forward to issue #2. If any of this seems like something you'd enjoy, first of all, you are awesome, and second of all, it's only $1, so stop by your local comic-book store and give it a go!

Happy Summer!