(Joshua Ortega / Digger T. Mesch / Qing Ping Mui / Blond / Tom B. Long; IDW)
Okay humans, imagine a world in which every other sentiment thing on the planet, from the giant grizzly on the mountain to the cute, fluffy bunny at the petting zoo, all wanted to eat your flesh. What if the threat of the zombie apocalypse came not from the hands of our fellow citizens, but from the jaws of our household pets. If “every tier of the animal kingdom, from cats, dogs, and mice to lions, tigers, and bears, are transformed into super-strong, turbo-fast, bloodthirsty zombies, how will mankind survive? When a vicious attack can come at any moment from a fluffy tabby, a sleepy hound dog, or a ten-point buck, how can you stay safe?”
This is the concept behind IDW's newest series, The Other Dead, and, if you ask me, that's one serious hook. I mean, have you been outside lately? Have you seen all the things crawling around out there? Now try to imagine all those things trying to kill you. Geez. Hard-core.
Just when I thought this whole zombie thing had been done to death (pun intended), here's a group of guys who have taken the concept to its ultimate nightmarish conclusion. Even a shotgun totin' Dick Cheny isn't safe in this world (seriously).
This first issue is a slow build, establishing the book's tone, characters, and setting. And there's a lot of places and people to deal with, from our vomiting young narrator to his black arts dealing troubled brother, from a limber pole dancer with what may be a magical headdress to the President of the United States, Ortega shows his steady hand here, throwing his reader around the various locales and in the faces of the heroes and villains through each page. As a first issue, there's a lot of ground to cover and Ortega does a nice job of not only laying out the map, but holding our hand to make sure we don't get lost. And there's many places to get side-tracked along the way, so Ortega really proves himself a writer of note by putting on our blinders and keeping us focused.
Qing Ping Mui's art takes a little bit of time to get used to. At times his characters look bloated and unnaturally thick, but when it comes to rendering zombie deer or ducks, he shows why he's the perfect artist to take on this book. There is detail to his gore and an animated lifelessness to his forms, both of which make for mean zombie animals. He draws a pretty good Obama, too.
And this book is infused with political ideas. You can't draw in Cheney and Obama and not make some sort of political statement. What that statement is, ultimately, is still up in the air, as the source of the problem has yet to be revealed.
Oh, and there's a storm coming too, a big old storm, which can only add further complications to the plot.
So, there's potential for this book to go just about anywhere, and if this first issue is any indication of where this journey may lead, I'm holding Ortega's hand and letting him take me along. But I'm keeping my eye on my dog now, in ways I've never done before.
The Other Dead is a zombie book, no doubt. But it's a new take on an old trope and, through its novelty, re-invents the entire genre.