Writers: Andrew Cosby (story), Johanna Stokes (script)
Artist: Rhoald Marcellus
Publisher: Boom! Studios
When the City of Angels turns into a city of zombies, five L.A. teens must band together and find a way to escape the city. The only obstacles in their path are around 10 million zombies, who would be only too happy to eat them alive, and an incoming nuclear strike from the government. Torn between fight or flight, the odds certainly arenít in their favor.
As with any zombie story worth its salt, Zombie Tales: Death Valley covers all the classic elements. A small group of unlikely people are thrown together, forced to stand against overwhelming zombie numbers. Plans are made, weapons are chosen, and fights are fought. Eventually the group must flee, regroup, then decide what to do from there. At the same time a possible romance or two is thrown about, and when the bullets and blood stop flying, thereís always time for a good one-liner or two for humor.
Humor and horror have been mixing a lot over recent years, and this is no exception. Itís a nice treat to see a variety of jokes thrown about, from a snappy one-liner to a strained joke meant to break a tense situation. Stereotypes also abound, but are used to the advantage of the story. While at times the entire situation feels corny and rather impossible, the humor is a good reminder that the entire thing is supposed to be fun. Like many a classic horror, this issue is silly, cheesy, and a bit scary, but youíll gladly keep coming back for more.
The art for Zombie Tales: Death Valley was a bit surprising. Full of warm colors and bright shades, it had a generally happy feel to it all, something usually at odds with a zombie story. Yet like the humor, it meshed very well with the story, adding a bit of extra flavor to what can be an over-done genre. While at times it got a bit too cutesy for my taste, in general it was enjoyable.
For people who generally avoid horror, Zombie Tales: Death Valley is something to be enjoyed. The general story may be familiar, but the lighthearted humor and artwork make it worth the read. If youíre one for the more hardcore horror, you may want to look elsewhere for your zombie-slaughtering fix.
Plot: A group of young adults fight for their lives against a horde of zombies in Los Angeles. Time is running out as they discover that if the zombies donít kill them, a low grade nuclear strike will.
Commentary: Iím pretty new to the whole zombie genre in both comics and film, so Iím somewhat at a disadvantage when it comes to critiquing books like this one. While I canít go on for days about how this comic fits into the genre and compare it to other comics that cover the same subject, I can say two things: this book reminded me a lot of the recent remake of Dawn of the Dead, and I really enjoyed this comic.
There was a relentless pace to the story. Itís hard to pull such a thing off in sequential form but Cosby, Stokes and Marcellus manage to do a bang up of it. I do think doing this story in comic form put them at a disadvantage, but at the same time they managed to pull off some really neat scares just the same. Sure I saw them coming a mile away, but when youíre dealing with this type of story, there are going to be moments where a scare is telegraphed. What will elevate the sequence is the build-up. A good example of this occurs halfway through the book when Gina goes back into the house to use the bathroom and after finishing reaches for the door. I knew there was a zombie on the other side, but it didnít matter because the bits of business before hand (where she was laughing at Cosmo, something that everyone should do, while the rest of the group discussing the fact that Suki didnít burst into flames in the sunlight) made it worthwhile.
I also enjoyed the characters going back home and having to deal with their families who were turned into zombies or had otherwise been killed. Ginaís experience at finding her poodle zombiefied was particularly funny mainly because I own a poodle, and they donít need to be transformed into a zombie to turn on you without warning. You havenít known terror until a four pound ball of fur turns into a snarling dog of fury.
Seriously, those things are dangerous.
In The End: How can you not like a story where a bunch of trapped kids follow the daughter of a military man and shoot a bunch of zombies? Seriously. This was a really fun book that had some scary (or as scared as you can get while not seeing the zombies actually move) moments interspersed with humor and even some family melodrama to make for a great reading experience. This is one of the few times where Iíve read the second issue without reading the first and still had a good time.
Buffy with zombies. Thatís the main theme in this second issue of Zombie Tales: Death Valley. Thereís a little teen angst, a touch of teen love, and buckets full of teen zombie splattering. Any sophisticated comic book reader (which I hope you are) is not going to find anything new here. Seen Dawn of the Dead? Here. Seen Aliens? Here. Seen Breakfast Club? Here. In fact, Johanna Stokesí writing steals just about every zombie convention in sight. Can we have a zombie tale that doesnít have a character getting scratched and slowly reverting to a zombie? I get the fact that most zombie holocaust tales derive their impact from the epidemic level of infestation, but I also tire of the same storytelling scenarios that go into these tales. Plus, I understand that developing characters in a horror tale is almost an oxymoron, but couldnít Stokes have some non-stereotypical main characters in her tale? Laurie from Halloween? Here. Hooper from...O.K., Iím stopping now.
What really stood out for me in this issue was the great art by Rhoald Marcellus, someone who I have never heard of before this issue. He does a great job of blending manga sensibilities with traditional American graphic storytelling. To be honest, after seeing the lackluster Kaare Andrews cover, I wasnít expecting much from the art. However, Marcellus has put together a nice package here, and through his efforts he has made this derivative tale worth checking out, though I must say that 7 dollars is way too much for this issue. I donít pay 5 dollars for supposedly meaningful Infinite Crisis specials, so thereís little chance of plunking down more money for something that is ultimately brain candy. If this series had been presented over four issues in order to cut the cost of the individual issues, then I would say checking this series out wouldnít be the worst comic book decision youíve ever made.
I know that Iíve really busted on Stokes in this review, but she does keep the story moving throughout, working well with Marcellusí smooth artwork. Iím sure that if she tackled another comic book subject that wasnít fraught with so many cliches, she would put together a fine story. Oh, by the way, one other gripe: the colors in this issue are a little too bright for so dark a tale. Possibly, this could be the coloristsí impression of the L.A. setting, but it seemed too incongruous for me.
Final analysis? If your comic book budget is 50 dollars a week, buy it. Less? Skip it.
What did you think of this book?
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