Raise your hand if you love zombies. That’s what I thought. As horror fans, most of us can’t get enough of those walking brain munchers. Now, raise your hand if you enjoy zombie stories that feel like every other zombie story ever told. Probably fewer hands, right? If you DID raise your hand, then don’t worry, because Dead Life has you covered…
…Written by Jean-Charles Gaudin (Marlysa), Dead Life tells the story of a boy who plays with his grand-father’s chalice in the attic, and unwittingly unleashes a zombie apocalypse.
Look. I get it. The horror genre is flooded with shambling corpses just looking for fleshy human-snacks. It’s difficult to create anything “fresh” in the zombie sub-genre, especially when you’re dealing with creatures that are far past their expiration date. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. And so, it’s disappointing any time I come across what feels like just another plain old zombie story. Dead Life is no exception.
Dead Life feels like any other opening act to your average zombie tale. Family caught in the middle of the beginnings of a zombie plague. Bite after bite turning everyone around them into flesh-ripping monsters. Sacrifice. The unfortunate circumstances of needing to turn a weapon on a family member that has been bitten. You’ve seen it all before.
What I will give Dead Life is that, even though the story doesn’t add anything new to the sub-genre, readers who enjoy a fast, bloody tale will find things to like here. Gaudin wastes no time with trivial things like character development (sarcasm, anyone?), instead focusing his attention on how much blood he can spill and how quickly. For a thicker than average comic, Dead Life moves at a pretty quick pace, which has the effect of making the reader feel as if they are right in the middle of all of the chaos. Whether you’re engaged in the story or not, the mere pacing of it should get your heart beating a little faster.
Which, in an all honesty, is surprising to me, because Dead Life does everything possible to slow down the actual reading experience. Whether this is on Gaudin or the translation from Marc Bourbon-Crook, the dialogue in Dead Life is painfully clunky. Reading through it is like trying to dig up a grave with a trowel. You’ll get there, but holy hell is it going to take some work.
The art by Joan Urgell (Rebels: These Free and Independent States) doesn’t help either, as the paneling often feels obstructive and even a little misguided, in the sense that it isn’t always clear where the reader is supposed to go next. You won’t find a single page that has fewer than seven panels (most have eight or nine). I felt like my eyes were being attacked by a horde of panels, fitting for a zombie comic I suppose. Urgell tries to cram so much into each page of Dead Life that it’s difficult to appreciate the art, which frankly, doesn’t offer a whole lot of engrossing imagery.
As for the story and character themselves, Dead Life speeds through each event so quickly that the reader isn’t allowed to build the sort of relationships that are necessary with the characters for us to feel bad when tragedy begins to strike. Gaudin wastes no time in literally ripping his starring family apart, but by barely getting to know any of them, it’s difficult to care much at all over what’s occurring. Or maybe I’m a monster, which is a strong possibility.
Readers picking up Dead Life looking for something unique in the zombie genre will be sorely disappointed, but anyone looking for a quick read full of bloodshed and mayhem should find enough carnage here to satisfy. This is only the first issue, so maybe something new and different will come from the chalice that initiates this zombie plague, but I think you’d be better off trapped in a farmhouse, surrounded by the living dead, than holding your breath on that one.
Dead Life is available now from Titan Comics & Statix Press.
By Matt Konopka
Have you read Dead Life? What was your take on it? Let us know in the comments below