"High Fructose Zombies" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Potent Press
Originally published as High Fructose Zombies #1 - #6
Written by David Phillips
Illustrated by Sarah Braly
2014, 174 Pages
After seeing the documentary Fed Up, I've drastically cut back on my sugar intake. After reading High Fructose Zombies, I might cut it out entirely. The comic picks up with the evil Yumzy Corporation debuting its new candy bar, Snakatak, coinciding with the opening of the new theme park, Yumzy Land. This sounds great until it's revealed that Snakatak is turning anyone that eats it into brain-craving zombies. Now it's up to ass-kicking Clea to break into Yumzy Land and put a stop to the corporation's nefarious scheme before more innocent lives are lost.
If this sounds fun and bizarre, you're right. High Fructose Zombies is a comic that doesn't take itself too seriously. On one end of the zombie spectrum, you've got the doom and gloom of The Walking Dead. On the other, you've got Clea brandishing an oversized lollipop like a club as she bludgeons sugar-crazed undead in a candy-coated nightmare. You get the idea.
Creators Sarah Braly and David Phillips drop you right into the action. You get an immediate sense of the world, Yumzy, and more importantly, Clea. It's easy to identify with her. While I'm not entirely on board with the whole organic food thing just yet, you can see where she's coming from. All she wants is some healthy snacks and she's besieged by sugar and other assorted garbage food. Her family and most of the people she knows have fallen under the spell of Yumzy, perfectly happy to stuff their faces with stuff like maple peanut strawberry ice cream and bacon breakfast bagel burgers (actually, that last one sounds pretty good).
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While Clea is surrounded by people that just don't understand her, she's also suffered profound loss. Her father died in a mysterious chocolate accident at the Yumzy factory, but that's just the beginning of her heartbreak. Her fight against this corporation gives her life new meaning. She has something to stand for and some skulls to crack. Clea is always confident and never doubts herself, plus she can throw down with the best of them. She's just the kind of woman we need in comics. A big part of this has to do with her design. She looks like the kind of girl that could kick your ass, but you'd still love to hang out with.
It's one thing to read about these crazy antics, but artist Sarah Braly brought it to life in stunning Technicolor. The book is the very definition of the word vibrant. Yumzy Land is both terrifying and magnificent in its scale and audacity. It's filled with attractions that would appeal to anyone that's ever said “'Merica” un-ironically. This is the witch's house from Hansel & Gretel after Xzibit got through with it. (“Yo dawg, we heard you like candy so we put candy in your candy, and on top of your candy and covered it in candy.”) When the chocolate hits the fan, there's a sudden change in tone to the colors, muted like an old exploitation film.
There are some scenes where the characters look a little flat or appear in awkward positions. This is more than made up for with the creativity in the design. Seriously, when you see two men in bunny suits spewing vomit every which way, you'll wonder where that image has been your whole life.
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Braly uses some terrific art direction throughout High Fructose Zombies. No two pages are anything alike, so the reading experience is always interesting. She uses the gutters very effectively, often covering it in goo or other sugary substances. It really cements the claustrophobic feeling of the park as Clea and her colleagues try to fight their way out.
High Fructose Zombies could have been a preachy comic. It could have been a book brought to you by Crest or Colgate with a coupon and a reminder to floss. Instead, it's a creative book that pokes fun at our current over-indulgence of junk food without bashing you over the head with a message. Watch as Clea wields her giant lollipop, beheading zombies with ease. While they may explode in surge of blood and guts, they'll also drop some candy like a weird piñata.