Empire of the Dead #1
Because The Night Was Made For Biters
A small movie shot in the cheap in 1968 may have changed our culture just as much as Star Wars. Oh, yeah -- Marvel's getting that one, too.
George A. Romero, the zombie king, has finally come to comics to continue his saga his way, with the only limitation to his "budget" being the Alex Maleev's pencils (which really aren't limiting, by the way). And make no mistake -- since Romero is writing it, and he has attempted a bit of a reboot cinematically with Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead (your mileage may vary on those), this is the official continuation of Night of the Living Dead. Comics worked for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, why not this?
And Alex Maleev is a perfect artist for it. Panels drip with mood, shadows and light crossing in confusion. His zombies lurch, and unlike a lot of comics portrayals, you can still see the humans they once were.
As for the story, it's apparently been a few years since the events of the first movie. Society isn't quite in the lockdown intimated by the last few movies; a sort of balance has been achieved. There are red zones, but New York still has a Mayor; whether or not he's been duly elected is a different matter.
Into one such zone drops Penny Jones, a psychologist determined to prove that zombies have more than reflexive memories. She has a direct connection to the first night of the dead, for Romero reveals that what we thought we saw all those decades ago wasn't the whole story.
Penny, you see, has an older sister named Barbara. A still LIVING older sister named Barbara, who we saw pulled out of an old farmhouse by the first victim of the living dead, her brother. I still hear his "they're coming to GET you, Barbara..." in my nightmares.
But it turns out that as a walking corpse, he actually saved her. Moreover, he actually sacrificed himself for her. At least, that's what the Jones family believes. But few people agree, especially Paul Barnum, who rounds up "stinkers" for fighting in the arena of Yankee Stadium. He lost a member of his team earlier, and it obviously haunts him.
Romero combines this with another element, perhaps meant to be a surprise but telegraphed by Maleev's portrayal of the character. Some might find it cheesy, but actually it just brings in the filmmaker's second biggest cult success -- and no, it's not Knightriders.
Yet if you've seen the movies, it is all a rehash of themes Romero has gone over before. Maybe this will be his definitive statement, and as such, I'm kind of interested to see how it all pans out. It's readable, and as Marvel very boldly states on the cover, NOT FOR KIDS!
But it's good, not great.
Find this book and, of course, any comics you like at your local comics shop. We recommend Earth-2 Comics in Northridge, Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, Illusive Comics & Games, Hijinx Comics and The Comic Bug -- and many, many more in a neighborhood near you.