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Never judge a book by its cover. That’s a piece of advice that transcends reading, applicable to any scenario that might inspire premature judgment of some sort. Make no mistake, it is damn good advice. I’m therefore somewhat ashamed to admit that it was one of the covers of The Other Dead #1, decorated with Barrack Obama armed to the teeth and aiming down the barrel of a large pistol, that had me wanting to read it. Well, that’s one way to draw in readers. And to clarify, my judgments were made after I read the comic.
The Other Dead #1 has Kevin Eastman’s stink all over it. Eastman is the current owner of Heavy Metal, a magazine notable for publishing dark and violent science fiction comics loaded with erotic encounters. It wouldn’t be an Eastman publication without a highly sexualized and unrealistic woman thrown in to it to—I don’t know, add excitement where there isn’t any? —But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s start from the beginning.
The creative team did what they had to do to make an increasingly worn out genre fresh again. I’m referring, of course, to the ever so popular setting of the zombie-infested world. And, I have to admit they succeeded. It’s Pet Cemetery meets The Walking Dead. Animals are rising from the grave, animals that, in the first issue at least, were killed unnecessarily by stupid and selfish people. And yes, I spoiled it; Barrack Obama and his arsenal have something to say about it.
And Barrack Obama isn’t this comic’s only politician. Quite humorously, the story opens up with Dick Cheney and his buddies hunting for game. After Cheney takes down a deer with a shot that destroys most of the skull, one of his friends makes the joke that at least Dick didn’t shoot him again—because we all remember, I hope, when that actually, really, happened.
Unfortunately, the cast of The Other Dead isn’t limited to just politicians. Set in Kenner, Louisiana, the story mostly follows a punk rocker, his sick little brother, and his stripper girlfriend—I mean, how else could they include an over-the-top stripping sequence that goes on for two whole pages? But that’s just the cheesiness that I’ve come to expect from Kevin Eastman. This guy must troll old issues of his own magazine for character ideas.
As critical as I’m being, for which I will most certainly not apologize, the story that’s being set up is actually pretty interesting. Without summarizing the specifics, The Other Dead #1 does a great job at making the coming of the animal zombie apocalypse look like one hell of a storm. While I don’t care much for the punk rocker, AZ, and his quest for fame, or for his girlfriend, Justina, I would like to see how the writers handle Obama’s involvement, as well as the undead to come.
Joshua Ortega is the head writer and co creator. Kevin Eastman is merely the “creative consultant,” but Ortega and the gang seem to have consulted him heavily, based on the reasons I’ve already stated. However, Ortega didn’t let his contribution get buried in strippers. AZ’s sick little brother, at one point, is playing Gears of War. What a coincidence that Joshua Ortega has also written for Gears of War 2! Subtlety seems to have completely eluded the creative team of The Other Dead #1.
The artwork, however, is a success. Qing Ping Mui’s illustrations are dark and graphic. There’s a macabre feeling that runs throughout this narrative that can be totally attributed to how it looks. The dead animals have a much more sinister presence than just—well—dead animals. The creepy and decaying zombies that we as an audience are used to has been translated well into the animal kingdom.
I have never been so conflicted about a comic book before. I’m interested in what’s to come while simultaneously not impressed with how they are building up to it. I find the characters to be weak, while I can’t help but be excited about the government intervention. It’s never good when you can see the creative wheels turning, which I feel I can between Eastman and Ortega’s contributions. But still, I’m going to stick with this one. For all its weaknesses, it’s the most interesting and original piece of zombie literature I have read in a very long time.