Night of the Living Dead? Try surviving YEAR of the Living Dead.
Zombie stories are like dating musicians. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. Sure, there have been a few deviations from the typical moaning, reanimated corpse. You’ve got your fast zombies, your smart zombies, The Zombies but it takes real ingenuity to breath new life into a worn out genre. Luckily Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn have that in spades and make us look at zombies in a whole new light with Awakening from Archaia Comics.
So what’s so different about the zombies in Awakening? Well, for one, they may not be zombies at all. That’s what ex-detective Derrick Peters intends to find out. Derrick lives in the real world, you know, where zombies don’t actually exist, so he finds it hard to believe when a known eccentric named Cynthia insists that’s what she saw attack a recent murder victim. The fact that she’s blaming her former employer, Cline Pharmaceutical, doesn’t help her case at all. Even before things start to heat up, the government sends Doctor Daniel Howe to investigate the strange attacks in Park Falls, which seem to have no discernible connection or cause. Even with the evidence (and bodies) piling up, everyone is cautious to use the z-word but the frequent attacks are getting hard to ignore. The plot thickens when Derrick’s ex-partner comes back to town. It’s a tough call who you’d rather meet down a dark alley, him or one of the zombies.
Eckman-Lawn’s art is reminiscent of Ben Templesmith at times and in fact, Awakening’s tone and atmosphere are similar to Templesmith and Warren Ellis’ Fell. Something damn strange is going on in Park Falls but Tapalansky keeps you guessing and deciphering the clues along with Derrick. In fact, case files and other paraphernalia added to this hardcover make things even more interesting. The deliberately slow pace didn’t grab me right away but the discovery is half the fun. The other half of course is zombies. One in particular at the end of chapter three got my heart pounding the way only that specific plot device can. You’ll know it when you see it. Eckman-Lawn uses real-world photography as a base for his creative illustrations that certainly bring out the darkness in the characters, all of whom seem to be carrying the weight of their past like an iron trench coat.
I like zombies. I’m not their biggest fan but I can certainly go for a good zombie flick or story once in a while. Mostly, they’re all the same to me so I was relived when I read Awakening. The art is dramatic and the characterization is superb. Forget Zombies for Dummies, this is Zombies for Intellectuals. Tapalansky really makes you think. What if some zombie infection didn’t spread overnight but slowly infiltrated your small town over the course of a year? Would you notice? Would you believe that’s what was actually happening? Barely anyone in Awakening does but the good news is they’ve still got time to find out before it’s too late. Hopefully.
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