I’ve always loved reading Elseworlds tales of the Marvel and DC Universes; they allow artists and writers to grab the keys to the kingdom, and create whatever they can dream up without having to worry about crossing the streams, ruining existing canon, and causing comic fans’ heads to explode.
DC and Tom Taylor have been teasing us with DCeased material for some time now and when it finally became clear that they were about to throw some zombie stuff at us, I was solidly all in. I absolutely loved Blackest Night, and sure, this is clearly very different, but still it’s zombies, and who doesn’t love zombies? Jabronis, that’s who.
If you’re not familiar with Tom Taylor, he’s one of the few undisputed kings of the Elseworlds genre. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, you’ve encountered some of his work — Injustice: Gods Among Us being the largest and arguably most important piece from his portfolio. The series serves as a prequel to the video game series of the same name, and takes place in an alternative reality where Superman has lost his moral safeguards after the death of his family at the hands of the Joker. The result is a planet-wide totalitarian regime, with Superman at its head.
It’s safe to say that no one really expected much from a comic book whose primary purpose was to promote a video game, but Taylor blew everyone away with his work on Injustice. The series won multiple awards and was favored with high ratings from both critics and fans. Now DC’s giving him another sandbox to play in, and this time he’s got zombies in his bucket. So let’s see how he did with it.
Our tale begins by introducing us to a world that’s very recently been pulled back from the brink of oblivion at the hands of Darkseid and his countless, slightly less evil minions (that old chestnut). Having defeated Darkseid and his armies, the Justice League sends him packing, but it turns out that may have been exactly what he wanted. Before the League knows it, mass hysteria, death, and mayhem is breaking out across the planet. A mysterious techno-virus has sprung up, with Superman’s home of Metropolis as ground zero. Through humanity’s obsession with smart phones and social media, the virus has infected 600 million people in less than an hour — with poor Superman having to witnesses people tearing themselves and everything around them apart.
“The world is screaming.”
The mayhem spreading across Metropolis like a wildfire is brutal, vicious, and completely without mercy. But I don’t feel like I got enough of it. If society is breaking down across the planet, hit me with some shots of it happening! Us horror comic fans are sick and twisted individuals, we want to see the bad stuff go down. The few panels we received of anarchy in the streets, was more or less the same across the board — a close up shot of 1-2 acts of violence, followed by tall buildings with vague zombie destruction filling out the background.
Speaking of the artwork, this series is loaded with artistic talent — Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, and James Harren illustrated, with Rain Beredo as their colorist. I’m fairly certain DC had half of the artists in their employ submit variant covers, there’s no joke over fifteen variant covers to choose from. Which is mildly ridiculous, but once you see how dope these variants covers are, you’ll probably be excited to collect your favorites.
I absolutely loved James Harren’s work on Darkseid, Desaad, and Apokolips. Harren’s lines strike a Mignola esque chord with me, while at the same time having their own unique and defined style. Out of 32 pages, Harren got the smallest piece of the art pie, but he really made those few pages count. I very much want to show off his work, because multiple pages of Harrens are my favorite from the entire book, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Hats of to Rain Beredo as well — the motherbox really came alive thanks to the colors, and Darkseid’s most important scenes wouldn’t have looked nearly as cool as they do without his help.
Trevor Hairsine and Stefano Gaudiano are both very talented artists and there’s plenty of examples found in this book to easily illustrate that point — but their work needs to be more consistent across the board. Some panels look rushed with how awkward and haphazardly the lines are, and at one point Cyborg appears to be wearing clothing instead of having a cybernetic body.
Taylor’s script was easily the best part of the book. He does a fantastic job laying down the introduction of the virus and is very clever with its creation. It’s hard to imagine the good guys coming out on top, which is exactly what I want from a book like this. I don’t want there to be any hope. I don’t want to see any possible positive outcomes. I want to feel like the situation is hopeless and my heroes are doomed. That’s when a good writer tends to surprise and delights me the most. But even more important than that, I want to see some truly horrifying, disgusting, and disturbing content. Show the world just how sick and twisted you can be Tom Taylor.