Written and Illustrated by: Faith Erin Hicks
Published by: Slave Labor Graphics
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Zombies have infested the landscape of pop culture for a long time now. Ever since Danny Boyle revived the concept of infected undead years ago in 28 Days Later, the zombie has exploded into the mainstream of popular fiction. Once 28 Days Later proved that the zombie (or something like it) could be compelling again a floodgate of zombie media seeped onto consciousness of nerd fandom. Even comics would get in on the act, with Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead becoming the patient X for a floodgate of zombie tales that would swarm over the sequential art form that was once only popularized by men and women in tights fighting crime.
Before you knew it, a new zombie comic was coming out every couple of months. Some were obviously better than others but many were re-hashes of something better that had come before and been told in superior form in either film, comic, or book form. The zombie glut that had afflicted most of the rest of media tableau took hold in comics and while some were better than others, not many of them offered much in the realm of originality. Many zombie comics that were published at the initiation of the zombie explosion were as stale as the beasts that inspired them.
Luckily, Faith Erin Hicks’s Zombies Calling was not one of those stale zombie tales. Zombies Calling is a decidedly different take on the zombie subgenre to be sure in that, much like Shaun of the Dead, it very much embraces the “fun” aspect of undead plague movies. It avoids drowning itself in the seriousness of the “reality” of the zombie apocalypse scenario and embraces the adventure aspect of it. While it’s true that the monsters in Zombie Calling are indeed dangerous, the characters’ reaction to them is influenced by good old-fashioned horror fan fun. This comic takes place in a world where zombie movies exist and the protagonists themselves happen to be zombie movie fans. Because of this, they are in the know about how to appropriately survive a zombie attack. The energy with which at least two of the characters embrace the challenge of zombie survival leaps off the page and that sense of enthusiasm, dare I say it, is infectious. It’s this aspect of the book that makes Zombies Calling different than the usual fiction that uses the undead as its centerpiece. Rather than sinking into the morass of existential dread that most zombie fiction does, it looks at it from a fan’s perspective of the genre and has a great time twisting it around into something completely enjoyable.
Hicks’s artwork in the book is terrific. The story is rendered in beautifully cartoony black brushwork. It’s a look that embraces the gloom of horror but lightens it up with its animation-like style. Hicks is a great cartoonist and her characters are flexible and lively on the page. Each panel is filled with detail and you can really get a sense of the care that was given to the artwork. Not only is Zombies Calling a fun book to read it’s also a fun book to look at.
I’d picked up Zombies Calling because my young daughter had asked me if there were any zombie comics that existed that young kids could read. While this comic doesn’t fit quite that bill (there’s a couple of what I consider inappropriate jokes sprinkled throughout) it is a good zombie read if you find the average zombie gore fest not to your liking. While Faith Erin Hicks hasn’t necessarily made an all ages zombie comic she has made one for readers who might find your usual zombie comic or movie a tad too intense. Zombies Calling is an amusing read that captures the spirit of the shambling undead tale but keeps everything on an even PG rating level. It’s worth seeking out if what you want is actual Halloween fun without too much of the fright