"Home: Lighter Than Air" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Double Take
Written by Michael Coast and Julian Rowe
Illustrated by Monica Catalano, Fernando Melek, Francis Nuguit, Soo Lee, and Vincenzo Riccardi
Colored by Javier Mena
2016, 144 Pages
Trade paperback released on September 28th, 2016
If you got to the end of Night of the Living Dead and wanted more, but in comic book form, Double Take has something just for you. Sure, you could look at other classic George A. Romero films like Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but instead, there is a ten comic series that continues the story as it began in the original zombie flick. I'll be looking at each of the titles, but first up, chosen randomly, as there is no right way to read them, is Home: Lighter Than Air.
Set in Evans County, Pennsylvania, at the heart of the zombie outbreak, a family is about to experience the undead firsthand. This is something that no one has ever encountered before, so they're not sure how to react just yet. The zombies aren't what you'd picture just yet either. They're not rotting corpses walking around hungering for brains. Instead, they look somewhat normal. They just seem to lose any and all sense of common decency, breaking into homes or shops and eating everything they can get their hands on. It's less of an undead epidemic and more of a horrible house guest, but for the entire town.
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The family itself checks off a few boxes in the stereotypical setup. Mom and Dad are wholesome and good-natured. Their teenage daughter is sex-crazed. Their young son is wide-eyed and looking for adventure. Then there's the baby of the family, their little daughter. She sticks out like a sore thumb, but no one seems to notice. For some reason that's never explained, she's a total asshole, cursing non-stop and making derogatory comments to her parents, siblings, and anyone else she comes into contact with. At first, this is a little funny, juxtaposed with the quaint lifestyle of 1960s America. Then it becomes annoying because it's the same bit over and over again. The fact that literally NO ONE acknowledges the horrible things she's saying makes it even stranger. It's an odd bit that doesn't work with the overall comic or universe.
The antics this group of people get into are just bizarre, leading up to an ending that comes out of nowhere and doesn't make a lick of sense. You wonder if there isn't some sort of pacifying gas that's permeating throughout the town to keep everyone calm while all this crazy shit is going on. Maybe there's valium in their drinking water. The most frustrating part of all this is that nothing is explained. Characters fall through the plot with no actual motivation for their actions. It's just that this is what they're expected to do next to move things along. I can understand if this was working towards an overall goal or explanation for the zombie uprising, but that never comes. There's no “A-HA!” moment. Instead, it's more confusing than anything.
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The artwork on Home is its one saving grace, especially the covers for the single issues, shown here as chapter breaks. The cover for the trade paperback is one of my favorites of the line, featuring the young girl running with a kite above a massive, ominous skull in the ground. Although the book was drawn by a number of different artists, it has a rather consistent look to it. There are some pages that appear a little off, like a smaller image was blown up to a larger size to fill the page.
Javier Mena's colors work to cement the time period and definitely bring forth the look and feel of the 1960s. This works in contrast to the horror that the story is trying to convey, as moments that should be scary don't pack the emotional punch they should. One such scene involves the teenage daughter walking outside and finding one of the family's cows dead with its face eaten up. This should be unsettling, but we get one shot of the cow's head and then a sort of shrug and everyone walks away into the beautiful sunset, like this kind of thing happens all the time.
Home: Lighter than Air feels like a missed opportunity. Now, it's one trade paperback out of ten titles, so we'll see how it contributes to the overall story of the continuation of Night of the Living Dead. On its own, it's just weird with a batch of generic, milquetoast characters and an angry, foul-mouthed child that is a poor attempt at humor.