"The Other Dead" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Originally published as The Other Dead #1 - #6
Written by Joshua Ortega
Illustrated by Qing Ping Mui and Mike Shoyket
2013, 154 Pages
Graphic novel published on May 7th, 2014
Zombies have invaded popular culture in a huge way. Wherever you turn, there's a shuffling member of the undead, slowly making its way to you, ready to feast on your brains. The animal kingdom seems to be the one place that isn't totally saturated with the undead. That is, until The Other Dead. Created by Joshua Ortega and Digger T. Mesch, based on a film treatment by the latter, the comic takes a look at what would happen if the dead rose on four legs instead of two.
Down in the bayou, Azrael and his bandmates decide to perform a blood sacrifice with a bunch of ducks in an effort to get famous. The next day, the local area is taken over by undead birds, dogs, and other wildlife. Now the band struggles to survive as a hurricane prepares to decimate the area. Alongside them are Az's stripper girlfriend, his cancer-suffering kid brother, and the President of the United States. Wait...what? That's right, folks. Barack Obama is a major player in The Other Dead, and he's ready to kick some zombie animal ass.
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The bulk of The Other Dead has the characters running from one place to another, trying to find a safe haven that's both dry and away from the undead critters running around. This keeps the excitement up as there's rarely a moment to breath. They jump from one crazy situation to another, including a horde of alligators strong enough to leap through a windshield, a pack of dogs hungry for human flesh, and a whole bunch of squirrels.
The rules in the comic are very clear. The virus only affects animals. No human infection has or will occur. Creatures of all shapes and sizes can catch the disease. This could be a bit of a plot hole as human beings are still part of the animal kingdom and are not that far off genetically from monkeys and pigs. I guess the mystical genesis of the virus is the reason that it doesn't leap to man.
The idea of zombie animals is pretty terrifying. Think of your pets for a second. Now imagine your adorable kitty or your loving dog with sores and blood all over it, ready to bite your face off so it can get at those sweet human brains. Not so cuddly anymore, are they? There are so many possibilities with this. Zoos and pet stores immediately become the most dangerous places in the world. Blind people are pretty much dead right away thanks to their seeing eye dogs. You know that weird guy with the pet tiger? Oh, he's so screwed.
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The President's inclusion in The Other Dead can be seen as a publicity stunt. A variant cover for the first issue by Dave Dorman was released on September 11th, 2013, just as military action was being considered against Syria, and depicted Obama decked out with all kinds of guns. Obama rushes to Louisiana to show his support in a time of crisis, as his predecessor dropped the ball the last time the state was in trouble. He gets wrapped up in the zombie animal battle and proves he can hold his own. There are some great moments with him throughout the story including conversations with a conservative redneck about Obama's lineage and the Illuminati. As a pack of animals descends on the cabin, the southerner says “Thought you were anti-guns...”, to which the POTUS replies as he cocks a shotgun, “I only said they should be properly regulated. I never said I couldn't shoot one.” Badass.
Qing Ping Mui's artwork throughout The Other Dead is pretty great. There is a load of detail in every panel and he makes everything look realistic. Of course, what really stands out are the animals. These things are like the stuff from nightmares. They're all bloody and scarred, like they've just come through a garbage disposal. Although they're decomposing, they're still just as deadly, if not more so than when they were alive. It's tough to point out a favorite zombie animal as they're all good. There's a wolf towards the end of the book that gets shot but is still standing ferociously with a fire raging behind it, teeth bared and covered in blood.
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There were a slew of variant covers for The Other Dead, most of which is included in a gallery at the end of the graphic novel. Among them is a series of connecting covers by Kevin Eastman and David Millgate. When put together, it creates a massive panoramic shot of a ton of zombie animals, such as a flamingo, turtles (obviously), and one tough looking gorilla. There are also two retro style covers, one by Tim Vigil and another by Shane White. Each takes the idea behind the series and makes it look like it was published decades ago. One of my favorites (Obama strangling a zombie bald eagle) didn't make it into this collection.
The Other Dead is a great idea that puts a unique spin on the zombie genre. Instead of your average slow-moving human undead, there's a never-ending array of animals ready to take mankind down a peg on the food chain. Reading this comic will make you look at your pets differently.