VISUAL FRIGHTS: THE OTHER DEAD not your regular dead
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.
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.”
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.
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
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?