THE OTHER DEAD #5 of 6 (IDW, January 2014)
Writer/Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega. Co-Creator: Digger T Mesch.
Art: Quing Ping Mui. Colors: Blond.
Letters: Tom B. Long. Creative Consultant: Kevin Eastman.
Based on a film treatment by Digger T Mesch.

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Before you can even open to the first page, the great art assaults you. There are three covers for Issue #5. All three are great and serve as good hints/teasers for the inside contents. Art lovers will want to have all three. (Reviewer’s Note: A bad time for me to get practical instead of impulsive.)

Issue #4 ended with our unlikely band of survivors holed up inside redneck Chet’s house. Issue #5 is an all-out zombie animal assault on the house with enough action and killing to last another two issues. The setting might even be a homage to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD , the original black & white zombie scare fest that is the granddaddy of all current zombie movies, television, fiction, and comics. Never stop the insanity when it’s this good!

Chip, the President’s advisor, does his job and advises everyone to sit tight and wait it out until the evacuation team that President Obama contacted arrives for a rescue extraction. Little Tommy, scoring points for figuring out that Chet is a former Army Ranger (learned it from “video games” ) asks an intelligent rhetorical question: “But didn’t Chet say the animals start coming around at night?” (Flashback to page one where the animal forces are gathering.) Mr. Advisor responds with a classic answer of “Yes, thought I think if we stay put inside we should be just fine.” (Also recalling the infamous line from THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – – – “The cellar’s the safest place!” We know what happened there.)

Chet’s just a little bit paranoid about having an animal-bitten rocker in his home, not to mention a black man (even if he is the President). His suspicions lead him to questioning Obama about the entrance requirements into The Illuminati, as he’s sure that how he landed in office. And then the mayhem begins as the house is broken into by the animals. First it’s a pack of vicious dogs, followed by deer and big ass bears. They all attack with manic fury and don’t go down easy, requiring multiple head shots and smashes.

The art and color throughout the battle scenes is extremely expressive and explicit this issue. Artist Mui is having a field day as he depicts undead animals in various stages of decay, exposed bones and sinews, with skin stretched back across the muzzle to display rotting fangs, etc. The inks and colors are bolder than seen before, with reds and greens illuminating the pages. There are some very effective pages and panels that are shaded one color.
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President Obama should definitely take some time out to investigate this book, as it depicts him in a very favorable light (even if it is bathed in crimson). He takes up arms, blows heads apart with both barrels, kicks, chops and hacks away at the animals when he’s balls to the walls and cornered.
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It all comes to a head rather quickly, as we’ll have to wait for the conclusion in Issue #6 to see how this turns out. It’s not going to be good for one side or the other. If I told you which side (animals or humans) got the upper hand this issue it would spoil too much of this very engaging story. Recommended.

(Reviewer’s Notes: It’s already been announced that a sequel is in the works, slated for late 2014. So that would indicate that somebody or something survived to carry this forward.)

 

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THE OTHER DEAD #3 of 6  (IDW Publishing, release date November 13, 2013)  Writer / Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega.  Co-Creator: Digger T  Mesch.  Art: Quing Ping Mui.  Colors: Blond.  Letters: Tom B. Long.  Edits: Tom Waltz. Creative Consultant: Kevin Eastman.  Based on a film treatment by Digger T Mesch.  Covers by Sam Shearon, Shane White, Kevin Eastman & David Millgate.     www.theotherdead.com  www.idwpublishing.com

After three issues of THE OTHER DEAD the half-way point in this grisly but gripping saga of a zombie plague has been reached.  Events have been heating up to a boiling point. The furious and savage attacks by various species of the animal kingdom against humanity are now widespread, especially in the state of Louisiana which seems to be the epicenter. With a hurricane threatening to accelerate the devastation and isolation even further, Issue #4 should be on absolute fire and ready to explode. That leaves two remaining issues to bring everything to a resolution or conclusion, and this reviewer wonders when and how (and why) it will all end.

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Let’s consider together some very popular zombie fiction (and film) for a moment.  Fans of the comic book series dislike the television series, and vice versa.  But would they both agree on the following? = Is it accurate to state that THE WALKING DEAD is first and foremost a human interest drama, with the gruesome tale of zombie infestation being a secondary concern?  Please make a decision, pick one or the other, and hold that thought.  Now, will the growing readership of THE OTHER DEAD consider this statement?   Is it accurate to state that THE OTHER DEAD is first and foremost a gory tale of the rise of the animal kingdom and their revenge against their persecutors (human race), with the human interest drama being a secondary concern?   Please make a decision, pick one or the other, and hold that thought.

Perhaps it’s a commentary by Lynda E. Rucker that appeared in U.K. horror publication BLACK STATIC #36 (September-October 2013) that stimulated this thought and led me to ponder the creators’ intentions. (Sure, I could always contact them and beg the question.  But I would rather wait for the end, and be either surprised or have my suspicions confirmed.  It’s more fun this way.)  In her column, Rucker considers horror storytelling and genre storytelling in general and debates whether they should entertain first and foremost, or contain meaning and purpose.  Also, she asks “can the two approaches exist side by side?”

It came down to this comment by her, which really struck home and stimulated the thoughts that influenced the way I began this review

“Fiction and film that demands a bit more of its audience, however, is a little more endangered, because it doesn’t always go down as easily and (most significantly) it doesn’t usually make as  much money. But one of the things I love most is a challenge.  I like dense prose, difficult characters, uncomfortable truths, have-to-read-it-twiceor-more-to-get-it stories. Tell me a tale that will make me look at the world differently once you’re done, not because you’ve taken me out of the world, but because you have located me more firmly within it even as you’ve infused it with the supernatural, the numinous, the impossible.”

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Does that mean that PETA will embrace THE OTHER DEAD and utilize it as a call to assemble for their cause?   (I doubt that, but it’s an interesting thought.)  Will some meat-eating readers of THE OTHER DEAD begin to feel guilty about their food choices and convert to vegetarianism as a result?  (That’s another interesting thought.)  Could a reviewer by searching for meaning or just sharing some deeper thoughts generated by THE OTHER DEAD suddenly revive a sleepy readership and provoke some comments on the website?  (That’s a third interesting thought.)

The only things that appear fairly certain at this point are that 1) not every character introduced will still be around by Issue #6;  2) the odds seem to be stacked against the human race; and 3) artist Quing Ping Mui is a major talent who deserves more recognition.  So far, our intrepid group comprised of a death metal band, some hooker girlfriends, and a younger brother has suffered the loss of two of their members. Birds, gators, dogs and now squirrels (which can infiltrate a home rather easily) are all out for blood.  If the critters don’t get them, the hurricane-fed tropical storm surely will.   From gory images of animal savagery to a range of vivid facial expressions (which makes crystal clear the emotional trauma being experienced) to background scenery, detail, and a fantastic final page of the storm at its worst – – Mui can do it all.

What also occurs in Issue #3 is the President and chief advisor meeting up with rocker Azrael and friends after surviving an assault on their vehicle by a vicious pack of rapid, drooling dogs. (Finally, the President gets his kicks in.)  And, for the first time he is identified by name as “Obama”.  Make no mistake about the vaguely familiar man as drawn by Mui.  Yeah, the Prez is here.  There are also disturbing images and consequences associated with an escape from a gator assault on an SUV.  Some redneck hunters may have found a sure-fire solution to curbing the spread of the virus, but at what cost?

It doesn’t bode well for the final outcome here.  And, if humanity survives at the cost of the animal kingdom, what does that do for the balance of nature?  How might it change the future?  Perhaps the creators have some surprises in store along the way.  I’ll be watching this closely the rest of the way and will continue to post some updates here (doing my best to avoid completely spoiling it.)  I highly recommend this mini-series. Go check it out.    

 

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THE OTHER DEAD #1  (IDW, release date September 25, 2013)    Writer / Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega, Digger T Mesch.  Art: Quing Ping Mui.  Colors: Blond.  Letters: Tom B. Long.  Edits: Tom Waltz.  Creative Consultant: Kevin Eastman.  Based on a film treatment by Digger T Mesch.  Covers: Logo cover by Reynir Hauksson;  Obama cover by Dave Dorman;  Zombie turtles cover by Kevin Eastman & David Millgate.

          THE OTHER DEAD received some unexpected advance publicity from an unlikely source a few weeks ago when all copies were held up in U.S. Customs on their way to the United States via an Asian printer.  The book did not debut on September 11 as scheduled and rumors circulated that it was due to the controversial variant cover featuring an armed and angry President Obama.  The Customs’ office explanation (that they were spraying for moths) was doubted, and the conspiracy theories helped peak curiosity for the book, probably ensuring that it will sell out on the release date, now scheduled for September 25, 2013.

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          There is new interest in the book as a result, and speculation on whether the contents will justify all the attention.  I’m happy to report that THE OTHER DEAD is a gritty, gruesome but fresh take on the well-worn zombie genre that contains a sufficient element of satire to induce some chuckles along with the shivers.  Far from predictable, it moves along at a rapid pace as it mixes a little fun in with the suspense and terror.  Its worth your checking out, and by all means try to obtain a copy of the awesome Obama cover by renowned artist Dave Dorman.

          Things begin in shotgun fashion as a Texas trio of deer hunters (one with a familiar face) bring down their prey in one explosive kill shot to the head.  There’s a quick political in-joke to ease the tension, occurring just moments before the now angry prey gets back up.  The captioned narration talks about the beginnings of the infection, and concludes that it may have been airborne, “like an air of death had been carrying on the wind, just waiting for the right gust to push it all the way.”

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          There’s a huge handful of creative talent working on this book – – Joshua Ortega (Gears Of War, Star Wars Tales); Digger T Mesch (Agent 88, founder of Art Asylum); and Kevin Eastman (co-creator of TMNT and current publisher of Heavy Metal magazine) – – and they vigorously inject new life into familiar and somewhat dormant subject matter.  But what really propels THE OTHER DEAD into a higher gear is the amazing art of Qing Ping Mui.  It’s an original style, but comparing it to some other artists will help those unfamiliar with Mui (as I was) get an idea of how visually stunning his work is:  take the photo-realistic style of Leonardo Manco and Steve Epting and put an edge on it similar to Frank Quitely and Carlos Magno.  The attention to detail is impressive, and Mui enhances the hysterical mood through incredibly expressive facial reactions.  He transfers that same expressive look to the faces of the animals as well, helping to heighten the sense of impending doom that disturbs the human characters.  And, if someone wants to script a comic about a strip club pole dancer they really need Mui to visualize it for them.

          Following the bloody opening scenes, THE OTHER DEAD puts the pedal to the metal and doesn’t let off the gas until the final panel.  Issue #1 is a whirlwind-paced prelude to what comes next.  The rest of the activity takes place in Louisiana, which is about to be devastated by another ferocious hurricane just as the infected animal activity begins to fester.  The major characters include the members of a struggling death metal band who decide to break into a breeding pen of ducks and see if a blood bath can revive their music, the leader’s dancer girlfriend and her roommate, the President of the United States (depicted as Barack Obama, but not identified by name) and young Tommy.  Tommy is the most sympathetic of all these characters and also the narrator voice in the captions.

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There’s an early moment of dread when Tommy hurls his bacon and eggs breakfast (nice spatter detail) and we wonder if he has ingested breakfast made from infected animals.  But Tommy seems to be suffering from his own illness (possibly terminal).  As illustrated by Mui, he appears a little pasty-faced and weary, as if feeling the effects of radiation treatment or chemo-therapy.  

During the U.S. Customs delay and my news article about it  ( see http://bcrefugees.blogspot.com/2013/09/september-11-release-of-other-dead.html  )  I also challenged the creators’ claims to being the first to feature animal infestation in a zombie tale, referring to THE FINAL PLAGUE (begins and spreads through rats) among others. I now realize that their claim is valid.  The zombie plague in THE OTHER DEAD will be confined to the animal kingdom, and this six-issue series will be primarily about humans trying to survive as more and more animal species turn into flesh craving zombies.  This is what differentiates THE OTHER DEAD from other zombie books that feature animals – – the protagonist is the animal kingdom, and not infected humans.

          I also would not be surprised to see PETA file a complaint regarding the inhumane and cruel abuse of animals in Issue #1.  They should realize that it’s

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only a comic book, and no actual animals were harmed in the production of THE OTHER DEAD.  In fact, with the exception of the zombie gator that chomps down on an infected duck, its cruelty to animals that seems to trigger the disease in the deer and ducks in Issue #1.  There’s a message/warning to humans here . The animal kingdom is long overdue their come-uppance.  PETA would be pleased. 

It also seems that THE OTHER DEAD was held up in U.S. Customs not because of the Obama variant cover but because they really did need to spray the shipment for moths.  It’s ironic and amusing that a book about zombie animals is delayed because of concerns about what disease or infection the moths might spread. Grounded in reality, perhaps?

 

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VISUAL FRIGHTS: Get some chills while supporting indie comics creators

  INDIE COMICS HORROR #2  (Aazurn Publishing, Spring 2013 = sold only through pre-orders in PREVIEWS April 2013 catalog for books releasing in June)  Various writers and artists. Black and white, 64 pages.  $6.49 The brother/sister title to INDIE COMICS MAGAZINE  expands to 64 pages with the second issue of INDIE COMICS HORROR, again promising… Continue reading VISUAL FRIGHTS: Get some chills while supporting indie comics creators