Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Comic Book Wednesday - Vampires Or Zombies: Why Not Both?

Are you a vampire person or a zombie person?

Vampires have appealed to our imaginations for the longest time as a combination of power and curse, of romance and loneliness, of eternal life and endless damnation. Vampires have become a bit romanticized in recent years, what with the abominable Twilight series so it may be that the appeal of vampires has lost its teeth, in a manner of speaking.

Which may explain the rise of the zombie as the epitome of horror over the more vapid vampire. There is nothing to romanticize about zombies, shambling, rotting mockeries of humanity. Being a vampire is to be cursed to the darkness for eternity but it is still life of a sort. Being a zombie is to fall victim to the jacked up bastard step child of Ebola and AIDS.

It is the choice between being a zombie or being vampire that lies at the crux of a graphic novel I read this past summer, The New Deadwardians by  Dan Abnett & INJ Culbard. This book is the compilation of an 8 issue series published by DC’s Vertigo imprint back in 2012. It is about a world in the age of post Victorian England when a zombie plague as afflicted the world. A cure is found to keep one from being turned into a zombie. The cure is being turned into a vampire. Zombies only infect the living, not the undead.

Actually, the word "vampire" does not come up in this story. Rather those who have taken The Cure are described as "Young", a euphemism that doesn't lend itself to much understand with humans caught between the elite cured and the cursed undead. 

Also the normal sobriquet of the walking undead, "zombie", is not used either; instead they are caled "the Restless".  Still for purposes of this post, I will rely on the more traditional terms of "vampire" and "zombies".  

Becoming a vampire is not without price which leads to a three way division of life. At the lowest rung of society are the zombies, natch. At the very top are the vampires. And stuck in between and feeling the squeeze are the humans, too poor or too defiant to become a vampire, in constant battle to stay out of reach of the zombies. Humans are ostensibly the middle class in Deadwardian society, a class threatened by an ever growing population of zombies below them and cut off by an increasingly isolated vampire class from above.    

There are other costs to  bear besides the payment of money. For a vampire, there is a sense of disconnectedness from life. Being a vampire may save one from being a zombie physically but in many ways, the vampires of this new society are zombies in a mental and emotional sense. They’re cut off from human feeling, empathy and passion.

The story in this collection centers around vampire Chief Inspector George Suttle who is called out to investigate the murder of another vampire. Which is a pretty neat trick since the only way to kill a vampire in this world is to cut its head off. And the victim appears to be in one piece. Suttle’s investigation of the murder drives the action but the real appeal of the story to me was the exploration of this world and how people try to live in it. In order to save his maid from becoming a zombie after she is bitten by a zombie, she’s given the cure and doesn’t quite like it. She feels alienated from her old life and she misses things she didn’t think about missing. For example, dogs. She loves dogs. But dogs don’t care much for vampires who are both there and not there at the same time. Suttle goes about his investigation with a human driver who provides some interesting insight about what it means to be human in a world where zombies overrun most of the world and vampires rule from heights of emotional detachment.  It is that very detachment that gnaws at him. The murder case leads him to a human prostitute that stirs things inside the Chief Inspector that he thought long forgotten, like, for example, sex.

When The New Deadwardians gets underway from page 1, the world of humans, vampires and zombies has been established for nearly 50 years. There are some hints as to how it all started but I was more invested in this world as I found it in than how it all began. The denouement exposes the horrible secrets of how this world began and provides answers to questions I didn’t need to have answers to. And naturally it’s all tied into the murder mystery that Suttle is seeking to solve which is a  bit convenient but hey, coincidence is the engine that drives storytelling. 

I should say something about the art. INJ Culbard captures the Edwardian styles of the story very well and conveys depths of character with a minimum of lines. Yet detail comes into play as it needs to with city streets, manors and, of course, swarming mobs of zombies. This is a world where the bizarre and the mundane walk side by side and Culbard captures it all very well. 

Overall, an interesting comic book with a thought provoking premise and a well thought out exploration of that premise.

Currently Abnett & Culbard are paired up on a series called Wild's End published by BOOM Studios. I have not read it but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, a mash up of Wind in the Willows and War of the Worlds. As for The New Deadwardians,  I have no idea if a return to that world will ever be in the cards but it is a world of depth and complexity with more stories to tell if Abnett and Cubbard want to tell them.

Thanks for popping by the old blog thing today. Another post is coming your way tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.

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