One of my favorite things about reading small press and independent comics is watching them grow as they go along. Zombies Hi is no different in this aspect. Set in the town of Derry (which is in Ireland for those colonials like myself) the zombie apocalypse has struck the city, still buried under feelings from the Northern Ireland resistance movement (which most colonials don't know much about, sorry lads). Zombies Hi is full of good old gory goodness, summoning back echos of feelings of the pre-Comics Code horror comics. The first issue features a decapitated zombie head pinballing off of a cop car and popping into prominent view on the panel in rottingly gooey detail.
The art in the first couple of issues is really busy and a tad inconsistent. There is a lot of promise, but combining the crowded art with a lack of colors to help define everything makes it really easy for things to get lost in the background and gets overall confusing if you aren't careful. However, when they aren't trying to do too much with the art, it shines. The zombies are varied in appearance, avoiding an overly generic look helps separate this from the throng of zombie books out there as zombie fever continues to invade geekdom. The fact that the clothing and everything fits with the style of the region is refreshing. You'll see football (see: soccer) jerseys and also some soccer humor (a guy chests a zombie head; something i wouldn't recommend, and then rifles the head away from him with a volley kick). It doesn't feel like an American comic prancing about Ireland because it is scripted and drawn by fellows across the pond, which shows in the art and definitely in the writing.
Irish slang is weird. Words like "craic" (crack), "da" (dad) and names like Paddy are filled throughout the comic. It is wonderfully immersive. The story at first glance seems like your run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse story. Starts off with a mysterious virus and quickly escalates into a full blown Zpocalypse. Then we join a group of survivors that have walled off the capital with the politicians calling the shots from within. The defenses are flimsy and they're desperate for food and medical supplies. You'd be forgiven for dismissing this as a cut-and-dry zombie survival story… but you'd be wrong. McLaughlin's script has a lot going on in the background and in a way is using the zombie story to strike up a narrative about the Northern Ireland resistance and life thereafter. McLaughlin highlights the deep mistrust amongst the people of Northern Ireland and those in charge. The dialogue flows well enough, the text bubbles can sometimes dominate the panels, but as the series progresses the dialogue gets a lot stronger. You don't have to be an expert in Northern Ireland to understand what is going on. They do a great job in explaining the hostilities. You've got two factions that have been at war with each other for a long time suddenly trying to work together. Friction is high, resulting in sabotage and subterfuge. Paddy, the cop son of a revolutionary takes center stage. You see him start off as a pretty atypical guy who has issues with his father, but very quickly he changes course and starts to take care of those who need guidance. The characters are pretty fun in variation. A doctor who can't bring himself to kill the undead, a priest who can't decide on his faith and a rocker obsessed with getting his band back together. It is a fun cast of characters for a writer to work with. The story comes along, but I'd like to see the creative team slow down the pacing just a bit and flesh out the rest of the cast. I'm sure they are working toward just that and the few pre Z-Day moments have really shined.
The art from Coleman and Logue benefits greatly from the coloring job of Roo Thompson and Dannii Coyle. The art can stand by on its own, but once color splashes onto the page it changes the whole dynamic of the series. Characters suddenly come to life and the background seems to pop to life. The difference really is night and day.
Each comic comes with a few short comics and stories by various writers and artists. They're delightfully brief and some are quite a bit clever. These are tacked on at the end of each issue and I'd like to see some collaboration going forward with some of these lads.
We live in a wonderful age where a couple of guys up to no good can create and publish their own comics. The internet has really brought in a new age of independent comics. Harkening back to the early days of guys hunched over a table publishing early horror mags in their garage to pioneering the industry, teams like the people at Uproar Comics are keeping that pioneering spirit alive thanks to modern technology and sheer will. It isn't always pretty, but it should always be commended. Zombies Hi isn't always perfect and they have a lot of work left to do, but it is off to a strong start and you can really see them grow into their roles as each issue goes a long. By issue seven it felt like a bonafide comic with strong art, color and plot.
You can buy Zombies Hi from Uproar Comics.
Dylan B. Tano is a relatively new reviewer powered by a love of bacon and constantly distracted by a kitten who would rather use his laptop as a bed. He grew up idolizing Spider-Man and can’t believe he gets to review comics all day.
You can read some of his short stories at tanoworks.tumblr.com