Having celebrity creators dive into the comics industry is risky. I'm not sure how I feel about it, as it can shut out the 'regular' writers who have slaved away in the trenches. Previous forays have met with varying levels of success. Sometimes it's an excellent take on a character (see Kevin Smith). Sometimes it's an abomination, plagued by missed deadlines and self indulgence (see Kevin Smith). The latest effort comes from Heroes alum Brea Grant, along with her sibling, Zane Austin Grant and artist Kyle Strahm.
Set against the backdrop of 1927 New York, the story revolves around Mirah, a wanton woman - a flapper prostitute giving dances and favors for nickels in a seedy brothel. She's under the thumb of her greasy misogynist husband, while carrying on an illicit affair with Fanya, a Ukranian immigrant with some sharp edges and a busted moral compass. And then the zombies come.
As most of you are, I'm wary of zombie stories. The glut of tales around the undead has robbed the genre of its appeal. Coupling that with an unproven celebrity creator team, my skepticism was high. Surprisingly, this one fires on all cylinders. It immediately engages us with Mirah, a strong but flawed female protagonist. Rather than focus on the oncoming shambling horde, the story is more focused on the characters and their real-world problems. Strangely, in spite of George Romero's trailblazing and the success of The Walking Dead, most creators seem to forget this. They focus on the event and the horror without giving the reader any sort of anchor with the players. The Grant siblings balance the two quite well, however. While the undead plague isn't an afterthought, it's not put front and center in this first issue. As other events I won't spoil transpire, the paranormal predicament offers up some interesting possibilities for the story, aside from a rote survival narrative one would expect.
The art here is grimy and a little messy, but the cartoonish gruesomeness works. In a way, it reminds of me of Crumb, with exaggerated features and a parade of beautiful women and slovenly males. The men are so vile in this that at times you can't really tell which of them are rotting, which is a good thing. They're unshaven and lecherous in a way that goes hand in hand with Mirah's husband's woman-hating screeds. That's where the real horror of the story rests, with these troll-like men who stagger around the panels. There's not a lot of flesh eating going on here, but a particular scene with a zombie munching on a fat man's nethers will shove a dirty splinter into your brain. As the plague ramps up, it's obvious that things are going to get a whole lot uglier.
The art is fitting, the characters are fleshed out and real, and the dialogue is compelling. I'm genuinely surprised that I've come across another zombie comic that makes me want to follow it past its maiden issue. And to think that it came from someone from Heroes kind of stuns me.