Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Empire of the Dead Act 1 – review

Author: George A Romero

Illustrator: Alex Maleev

First published: 2014

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Zombie godfather George Romero unleashes his next undead epic - as an all-new Marvel comic! Welcome to New York City years after the undead plague has erupted...

But just because Manhattan has been quarantined, don't think that everyone inside is safe! Not only do flesh-eaters roam Manhattan, but there's another ancient predator that has taken a bloody bite out of the Big Apple: vampires rule the city!

But who is plotting against the Mayor? Is there a zombie uprising afoot? Who is the firecracker known as Dixie Peach? And in the pit of the bloody Circus Maximus, can anything stop the unchained fury of the zombie gladiator known as Zanzibar? It's zombies vs. vampires - with humans caught in the crossfire!

The review: I have Adrian to thank for drawing this Marvel graphic novel to my attention. Set in the same universe as Romero’s classic movies this features a character Penny Jones, a doctor looking to educate the dead so that the living and the dead can co-exist. She was the sister of Barbara and Johnny – the characters who kick off Night of the Living Dead. You’ll be aware that, at the climax of the film, Barbara is dragged from the farmhouse into a mob of ghouls (as the dead are referred to in that film) by the reanimated Johnny.

What we discover in this was that he dragged her through the dead and into a barn, he seemed to recognise her and the description indicates a conflict between memory and the desire to eat flesh. Ultimately, Barbara survived and Penny has taken it as her mission to find zombies showing the spark of intelligence and to exploit it for the good of all.

To that end she has gone to Paul Barnum, who captures the dead and trains them to fight (over flesh) for the entertainment of the crowds in Circus Maximus. We see that the zombies do have a rudimentary, disjointed understanding as the comic book format allows us to get into their thoughts. Some, like missing SWAT officer Frances Xavier, not only display intelligence but a high level of motor skills.

Unbeknownst to Penny and Barnum, the Mayor of New York – Chandrake – and many of the new world’s elite (including many of the law enforcement) are vampires. All is not well with the vampires, some believing that Chandrake is holding out on human blood and forcing them to drink rat. They are able to walk in sunlight and the only thing that can kill them is separating the heart left from right – when done deliberately for breaking their internal laws it is called excommunication – however, once they meet death they, like a human, will zombify. The vampires can fascinate mortals and Penny finds herself inexplicably (to her) drawn to Chandrake.

This was brilliant. I may be a vampire aficionado but I also like a good zombie movie, with a particular love for the first four Romero Dead movies. I’ve also always liked the merging of vampire and zombie genres – somehow in this it feels like Romero is bringing the two genres back together in the way outlined by Matheson in I am Legend. You’ll recall that Romero and Russo were inspired by I am Legend taking Matheson's dead vampires and creating the modern zombie. In this the zombies are as Romero has envisioned them, and Matheson’s living vampires from the novel can be seen patterned within the ruling elite of vampires, even though they are undead rather than living. Of course, Romero’s vision has humans as well, rather than just one last man.

Well worth investigating, this covers issues 1-5 of the comic. 8 out of 10.

1 comment:

Clark49 said...

Really enjoyed this, and Act 2. Looking forward to Act 3