Zombies are hugely popular right now. In comics, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore spearheaded the zombie movement with The Walking Dead, their tale of the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Kirkman’s take is certainly a more traditional view of the mindless, hungry zombies who quite literally only think with their stomach. Kirkman shows the zombies as an unthinking plague, ravishing the world. But zombies can’t be all that bad, can they? There has to be one or two around who do more than eat brains and moan incessantly, aren’t there?
In iZombie: Dead to the World, Gwen is that zombie. She’d rather hang out with her friends, mostly a ghost and a were-terrier than eat brains of the recently dead. But while she’d rather believe that she’s a normal, living young woman, she is a zombie and once a month, she needs to feed on a brain to keep from becoming completely mindless and… well, another of the walking dead. Working in the graveyard, she knows where all the fresh brains are buried. Finding excuses to stay after work, she digs up the newly buried bodies when the hunger gets too much for her. As normal that she may appear, Chris Roberson and Michael Allred make sure we remember that Gwen is a zombie.
Allred, most easily identified as the creator of Madman, steps easily into the art of iZombie. This isn’t quite the surprise shift as it was when he started drawing a Marvel mutant book since you can almost envision Madman’s Snap City being the same city, if only slightly more realistic, as Gwen’s Eugene, Oregon. roberson and Allred try to make Eugene look and feel as normal as possible, creating a very recognizable setting for a story that may be scarier and more insidious than it looks.
With the same pop, breezy catchiness that brings Madman’s daylight adventures to life, Allred and colorist/wife Laura Allred create Gwen’s menagerie of not-quite-horror friends as she tries to solve the grisly murder of her latest meal. Allred’s artwork is simple and clear, creating strong storytelling images that are given shape and mood by Laura’s evocative coloring.
Roberson’s story is a lot like Allred’s artwork; simple and clear. In iZombie: Dead to the World, roberson is building his characters and his setting, easing the reader into a groove with the characters even as he’s setting up the potential alliances and adversaries for Gwen and her friends. His story starts out like a Scooby Doo mystery as Gwen, after feeding on a recently deceased brain, is driven to find a murderer. Roberson plays up the actual mystery, having fun leading Gwen and her Scooby gang down wrong paths and dead ends. Like Allred’s art, roberson keeps the story crisp and snappy. The horror and mystery are secondary to the fun characters that roberson is creating in a zombie, a ghost and the were terrier. Rorbeson reels the readers in zombies but keeps them in with friends and their fun adventures.
Gwen and her friends actually owe more to Joss Whedon than to Robert Kirkman as Rorbeson and Allred are more interested in the characters and their relationships than in the flesh-rotting monsters, even if that’s what is on the cover to this volume. The adventures are set up to give Roberson and Allred roads into their character’s lives and relationships. These characters are just as interested in meeting the right guy as they are in finding a killer or a monster. Gwen is Whedon’s Buffy if Buffy was actually one of the monsters that she was fighting against. There’s not a lot of difference between the two characters and their lives in that way.
iZombie: Dead to the World introduces us to the world of Eugene, Oregon and it’s interesting inhabitants. There’s a zombie walking around, digging graves and eating the occasional brain to keep from going completely zombified. Her best friend’s the ghost of a girl who died in the 1950s and they’re both followed around by a puppy-eyed were-terrier. And they are the more normal characters in Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s book. iZombie is about friendship as much, if not more, than it is about zombies or guys who turn into dogs during a full moon. Roberson and Allred are more intrested in treating the reader to a good time and it shows throughout this book as they keep their story fun, tight and ultimately present a bunch of enjoyable characters running around trying to solve entertaining mysteries.