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UNDEAD #1 - 2002
Writer: Brian Pulido
Artists: Brian Denham (pencils) & Sandu Florea (inks)
One-shot, double-sized; $4.99
George Romero's classic NIGHT
OF THE LIVING DEAD trilogy? By the end of it, the walking dead had
taken over the entire world. In the movies, pretty much all they do once
they take over is wander around bumping into things, like the mindless
zombies they are. But what if they'd been intelligent? That's the basic premise of THE UNDEAD.
Written by Chaos! founder Brian Pulido, the oversized one-shot THE UNDEAD reads like DAY OF THE DEAD meets MAD MAX. It does have backstory that
comes from earlier Chaos! comics, notably EVIL ERNIE; but I haven't read
them, and I had no problem following this story. The basic premise is
simple: undead zombies rule the world, and the few humans left are hunted
for food. But what's interesting about the world Pulido has created is
that the zombies are intelligent, and their society is a lot like ours.
The vast Smith & Jones meat processing corporation breeds humans, processes them into choice
cuts of meat, and sells them to the undead public for consumption. What's interesting
about this world is that not all zombies agree that this is right. Protesters,
like our world's animal rights activists who cry "Meat is murder",
gather outside Smith & Jones' walls chanting "Let the live live!"
(it's established that eating human flesh is not essential for the zombies' survival, but consuming it does extend their
lifespan). And outside the cities, like some post-apocalyptic hippie
commune, is a town where the living and the undead coexist in peace and harmony.
The commune is led by a zombie who calls himself The Undead (in
his human life he was a man called Homicide, who apparently was featured in Evil Ernie comics). One day, while the Undead, his living girlfriend Lisa, and his zombie younger brother Billy are away, the town is raided
by zombies from the city. The invaders kill the undead inhabitants of
the town as traitors, then round up the living and take them to the city
to sell to Smith & Jones for money that can be used to buy formaldehyde,
which zombies consume the way you and I guzzle malt liquor.
Our trio of heroes attack the Smith & Jones compound to liberate their
friends, knowing that one of the captive humans, a pregnant woman, is
about to give birth to the zombies' idea of the ultimate delicacy: a baby.
THE UNDEAD reads like a fun low-budget drive-in flick: the plot isn't terribly elaborate,
and there's not much character development to speak of (The Undead presents a cool figure as a kind of undead Samurai, but Billy is your basic trash-talking teenager, and Lisa is a stock ass-kicking foxy chick). The art is okay, definitely dynamic, but occasionally hard to follow. What raises this book above just another Romero knock-off filled
with blood and guts is the world Pulido has created, which offers a rather
original take on a tired concept. The zombie society is a lot like ours,
down to "vegetarians" who won't eat human meat and career-minded
suits climbing the corporate ladder. There are parallels to racism, as
the corporate masters at Smith & Jones voluntarily remove their skin,
so as not to resemble the humans they despise. And the idea of humans
and zombies in love is one I don't think I've seen before. These touches
take a fairly light story to the next level and raise THE UNDEAD to the rank of three rabid fanboys.
There are two kinds of horror tales: those that shock with
blood and guts and those that chill with mood and atmosphere. I prefer
the latter but enjoy the former if there's some substance
to them. Fans of gore will definitely find what they're
looking for in THE UNDEAD, but those who seek a little more depth should find something to like here as well.
copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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