"Dead of Winter #4" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Oni Press
Written by Kyle Starks
Illustrated by Gabriel “Gabo” Bautista
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 15th, 2017
A psychotic police officer has captured Ruckus. Now Gabriel, Carla, former mall Santa Forest, and Sparky the Wonder Dog have to break him out. Of course, this would be a lot easier if there weren't hordes of zombies walking all over the place.
The star of Dead of Winter from the very beginning has been Sparky. If you're not a dog person, you will be by the end of this mini-series. It helps that this dog does by far the coolest things seen in any zombie story. It's hard to top the previous issue which saw him slicing up the undead with a friggin' katana, but somehow writer Kyle Starks does it here in an unbelievable scene. This is followed by a jaw-dropping moment that had me audibly gasping while reading.
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This is impressive because this character is developed without a single word of dialogue. Remember, he's a dog. He's got more personality than your average zombie apocalypse survivor. Maybe it's the cape. We get a glimpse into Sparky's past and he really is a Wonder Dog. Artist Gabriel “Gabo” Bautista packs these flashbacks with so much heart that anyone that's ever had a dog will instantly identify with the book.
Sparky's presence also helps to quickly identify the bad guys. Sure, there are the zombies, but that's a given. Anyone that is mean to Sparky or, dare I say it, hits him, is instantly put in the villain column and deserves whatever pain and anguish they've got coming. He has a tendency to come in at the right moment, like a perfectly time action star. He's may fall down, but he's never out.
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OK, I've spent half this review talking about the dog and for good reason. There are other characters in Dead of Winter, but come on, you're here for Sparky and you know it. As with most other zombie stories, the undead aren't the main threat. That comes from Officer Friendly, who is a force of nature. He's a deranged officer that has clearly been through some horrible things in this apocalypse that have caused his mind to snap. This tone is solidified in his scarred face, glasses with one missing lens, and dented helmet. This guy needs some serious mental help, but instead he's going to get f-ed up because he hit a dog. Not cool, bro.
There is near constant humor permeating through Dead of Winter. It doesn't take away from the impact of the more dramatic moments. If anything, it adds to them because you're lured into a false sense of security. Just because you can frequently crack a smile while reading this comic doesn't mean the characters aren't fighting for their lives at every turn.
Every time I think the zombie genre may be petering out, something new and exciting comes in to breathe new life into it. Dead of Winter is that new life. It's action-packed, fun, and earnest. Plus, it stars a dog that kicks all kinds of ass.