"Double Take Comics' 2015 Launch Titles" Comics Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Double Take Comics
Written by Jeff McComsey, Brian Finkelstein, Peter Aguero, Michael Coast, Matt Summo, Bill Jemas, Colin Mitchell, Jessica L. Williamson, and Julian Rowe
Illustrated by Jean-Jacques Dzialowski, Julian Rowe, Carlos Rodriguez, Marco Castiello, David Wilson, Kurt Tiede, Federica Manfredi, Joseph Cooper, Ricardo Sanchez
2015, $2.50 each, 36 Pages each
Comics released on September 16th, 2015
George A. Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, has been credited as redefining zombies from that point forward (if Wikipedia is meant to be believed). Decades after its release, it continues to influence new creators, and it just provided the basis for an entire new universe of comics. Double Take Comics, a brand spanking new publisher, has launched ten titles all set in the world of the classic film. All of the first issues debuted at once and interested readers could pick up a nifty box containing the whole bunch. So, how does it stack up against Romero's work?
What is immediately apparent in all of the Double Take titles is the sense of normalcy that flows through them. Each picks up with a group of characters going about their everyday lives. They're doctors, grocery clerks, or radio DJs in Evan County, Pennsylvania. Suddenly, the dead begin walking and they don't know what to do. We know the horror that awaits them, but for them, it’s just getting started.
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The zombies – or rather the ghouls, as they're referred to – in these books aren't hungry for flesh, at least not right away. They're just hungry. Starved, really. They'll eat anything and everything. A human being is just something else to shove into a gaping maw. We get some hints as to what might have caused people to turn into these monsters, as newscasts allude to a destroyed Venus probe and growing amounts of radiation in the area.
The residents of Evan County are rather...odd. We're talking Twin Peaks level strange. They don't react normally to anything. The grocery store workers in Dedication basically stand back as a mob of infected people literally break into the store and start eating everything in sight. One guy passively asks them to leave. While these stories are set in 1966, it wasn't that much of a nicer time that you wouldn't want to throw some weirdo out on his ass if he broke your store window and barged in, making a mess of the place. I worked in retail and I assure you that if anyone even attempted to come into the store after we closed, they would be obliterated.
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All of this pales in comparison to the little girl in Home. She talks like a sailor, throwing out curses and insulting everyone she comes across. We first see her when she comes up to her father, throwing a kite on the ground in frustration and shouting, “Fuck this kite!” Again, this book is set in 1966. No one reacts to her, so I think writer Michael Coast might be going for something like Stewie in Family Guy, but it falls flat. It feels very out of place, even if it is injecting some humor in a town that looks like it came from a Norman Rockwell painting.
The artwork has a fairly consistent look among all ten titles, as the layouts for each were handled by the same group of artists. They all capture that simple, down-home feeling that most small towns seem to possess. This makes the scenes of bloodshed really stand out. The shot of the limbless cadaver in Slab is particularly chilling, especially since it's chained to the wall and still moving despite having its entrails hanging out and its brain exposed.
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All of the covers are pretty great too. It's tough to pick a favorite, but Dedication's image of a housewife holding a platter of brains and human organs is near the top. Home's skull image with a young girl running over it is a gorgeous shot. The cover for Soul looks like a metal album. I could go on.
The hiccup with these Double Take titles is that they don't feel like full chapters of a story. While each of the series is an ongoing and there are more issues on the way, all of them end in abrupt ways, as if there were supposed to be more pages that were just left out. It doesn't fill me with an urge to check out more, as they all end right before or just as the action is starting.
In the end, there aren't any real standout characters in this expansion of Night of the Living Dead. Sure, Barbara and her brother pop up (and yes, we get the memorable line, “They're coming to get you, Barbara!”), but everyone is rather bland. They don't offer anything unique or interesting as characters, so it's tough to care enough about them to want them to survive the coming undead onslaught. Maybe ten issues was a bit much for a launch like this. While it's cool to see how different areas of the town react to these events, perhaps the time would have been better spent with a handful of titles working to establish the world. Just because everyone's see Romero's flick doesn't mean that that will be enough to carry an entirely new comic universe.