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There's no denying it: zombies are hot. From The Walking Dead to Zombies, Run!, tales of the undead have seen a resurgence in recent years. It's a good time to be in the living dead business, a fact not missed by the talented folks at Uproar Comics. Led by co-founders Danny McLaughlin and Kevin Logue, Uproar Comics is setting out to leave their mark on the zombie genre with their independently-published comic book, Zombies Hi.
Each issue of Zombies Hi consists of an ongoing main story followed by three or four shorter tales set in the same universe. In the lead story, writer Danny McLaughlin and artists Ruairi Coleman and Kevin Logue explore what might happen if a zombie apocalypse came to the famous walled city of Derry, Northern Ireland. Among the survivors we find a variety of ideological and political beliefs, ranging from a repentant terrorist, a faith-questioning Catholic priest, and a PSNI officer. Clearly there's going to be some tension here.
Issue 7 finds the above trio setting out to gather resources. Though they find guns, the other survivors would understandably rather see food. If a starving crowd wasn't enough, by the end of the story one of the lead's pasts catches up with him, and it seems things might turn violent.
Zombie Hi uses a horror staple to explore problems that also just won't die: sectarianism, terrorism, and social unrest. Will centuries of conflict ultimately destroy the survivors faster than the brain-munching zombies? Though the specific issues presented in Zombies Hi are unique to Northern Ireland, McLaughlin works hard to catch readers up on the history and politics of Derry. That said, the story-telling can get bogged down by text-heavy panels. While I appreciate that McLaughlin wants to focus on characters and politics versus the boring gore-fest that so many zombie stories can become, the barrage of text can be overwhelming. Additionally, frequent internal dialogue can be hard to discern from regular conversation. There were times I wasn't sure if characters were speaking out loud or just thinking a lot. Some editing and pruning would make for a tighter, more suspenseful story.
The main feature recently made a transition from black and white to colored art, which was a good move. This allows for more dramatic work by Coleman and Logue, like panels depicting a zombie attack rimmed in blood. Though the characters are usually posed dynamically, they sometimes look a little stiff. Still, there is some very good detail here, particularly in the backgrounds. I often found myself spending considerable time on a panel just to see all the details of the Derry cityscape.
Four back-up features--two comics and two short stories--expand the world of Zombies Hi. "What's That Noise?" by McLaughlin leads the group, tying directly into one of the main characters. The formatting of Alan Healy's story "Down Time" makes it a more difficult read than it need be, but the few accompanying Dave Campbell sketches illuminate the text. "Foundations," written by Michael Deery and drawn by John Campbell, cleverly combines Derry history with zombies, while "The Honey Moon" by author Rowan Davidson and artist Brian Burke chooses to focus on the plight of a couple who unfortunately got married while life as we know it was ending. All are fun reads if you're invested in the universe.
Zombies Hi has come a long way from its first few issues, and demonstrates the promise that digital distribution holds for independent publishers. There is talent here, and clearly a lot of passion from its creators and fans. If the series continues to improve, it could offer an interesting alternative to some of the current mainstream offerings.