"Stillborn: The First Zombie – The Trap" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Hunter S. Zombie
Illustrated by Phillip K.
2014, 114 Pages
I feel like everyone has that one weird house in their neighborhood growing up. It's the one that looks a little beat up and shady. You would skip it every year when you went trick-or-treating. When I was a kid, there was this one house around the corner that I couldn't quite tell if it was abandoned or not. Someone could have been living there but I never asked to find out for sure. The grass was overgrown and the whole thing looked a little rough. A house like that is the center of Stillborn: The First Zombie, and there are definitely some dark things at work within.
The comic picks up with a group of contractors and technicians called to check out a local rundown house for inspection. Some bigwig from New York has them on the payroll. Once they all get inside, the doors slam shut, trapping them in darkness. What follows is a bloodbath on the level of the Saw films as these people try to fight their way out while dealing with a murderous psychopath lurking in the basement and pulling the strings.
Stillborn delivers as a torture porn story but on little else. It has a thinly veiled and somewhat convoluted attempt at a revenge tale that's shoehorned in with a zombie angle that's thrown in at the last minute. By the time all of the pieces are put in place and the true nature of the situation is revealed, I had lost all interest in the characters and their survival.
|Click images to enlarge|
Marc Franco is sort of the main character in the bunch. He's the only one that is given anything resembling a backstory, showing him giving up a scholarship to Harvard after his father passing away, forcing him to take over the family plumbing business in his hometown and get really drunk all the time. Sure, I feel bad for the guy but I feel like there could have been other options that would have avoided this whole mess to begin with. I guess that wouldn't have made for much of a story though, huh?
Phillip K's artwork is presented in stark black and white. Normally when you say “black and white” in comics, there are grey tones in the mix as well. These provide more detail, context, and shading to give the pencils a more complete feel. That is not the case in Stillborn. It is literally black and white. This makes the book look rough and unfinished, like the images are crude layouts instead of a finished product.
This is coupled with some insane gore scenes that look like explosions on the page. These are rather difficult to follow. Take, for example, the image that's on the cover. This is during a heated confrontation with the zombie, but I can't quite tell what's happening. I think he's ripping a guy in half, but I'm not sure. There's a lot going on in there.
Stillborn is a noble indie effort but falls short on both story and artwork. There are some good ideas within these pages, but they need a bit more polish to really come through. It should be noted that 10% of every dollar made from the book goes directly to George A. Romero as a tribute and a thank you for his role in creating the modern day zombie. That's a nice touch by the creators.