When I saw an article describing this book and boasting that it was ‘the original Walking Dead,’ I had to read it. Gary Reed keeps this title alive (it debuted all the way back in 1987!) with his newest miniseries, entitled Deadworld: Restoration. With no prior knowledge to the series, I have to admit taking this review on was a bit intimidating as there’s a lot thrown at us. But anyone who is into the zombie genre for the sake of great and intelligent storytelling rather than just brains and guts will find something to love in this book. The book kicks off describing the aftermath of a battle; it seems to me thanks to a little research that there was a battle with the “King Zombie,” and he was overthrown. I think this is a very crucial point in a series like this: instead of just humans blowing zombies’ brains out, there’s a ruler over the zombies and some of the zombies themselves are smart as well. The main character that’s focused on in this sequence is a woman named Marah. Her and this group of mercenaries are all lepers, which according to Reed means that they were subject to experiments that test if their diseased flesh could infect the zombies. This wasn’t the case, but in turn it actually allowed these people to walk amongst the zombies without any detection (much like in The Walking Dead when they wear zombies’ blood an innards). They’re searching the carnage for survivors, and it appears that Marah’s father Rand has died, along with a lot of lepers at the hand of Donna the Zombie Queen.
Donna is half human and half zombie, allowing her to coexist with either side of this war. Reed points out that she can’t do this forever; she will have to choose one or the other, which is a very interesting situation to be in. The Zombie Queen’s main focus right now is to find her daughter. Where the Zombie King wanted to bring death to the world, the Zombie Queen just wants to find her daughter. Her daughter is human, so that makes her decision whether to become fully human or zombie that much more interesting.
Later on we’re introduced to one of the coolest anti-hero type characters I’ve seen this year, the Dead Killer. Merle from the Walking Dead seems to have ripped this character off quite badly-he has lost a hand, and has a blade sticking out of his arm. He’s… you guessed it, a human that hunts zombies. As I aforementioned, there are your typical zombies that the Dead Killer has no problem disposing of, but there are the more intelligent ones that caused the loss of his hand. He still loves the chase and the thrill of killing zombies, but now it’s more for survival than anything. He’s tracked down the Zombie Queen and put his knife through her neck-but that wasn’t the end of her. What I’ll mention next is one of the coolest twists I’ve witnessed in reading different undead and zombie books. Even if you’re dead, there’s a time period after you die where you can transfer to another dead body. The Zombie Queen had previously murdered a girl who a man named Sgt. Bowker found attractive. She takes control of her body and seduces Bowker. Being such a skilled killer, the Dead Killer also tracks down the Zombie King and puts a bullet through his skull. But the Dead Killer may have underestimated the Zombie King…
I loved the art in this book. It has a bit of a Ben Templesmith vibe with the lack of detail and sketchy quality to it, but fits the story perfectly. It’s genuinely disgusting in a few of the panels, and adds to the grit and misery of the events that are occurring. Some of the characters seemed like images of normal people in a funhouse; one guy in particular was enormously obese (complete with a “Princess” shirt) but had a tiny head. The art reminds me of something I’d see in a really messed up carnival or something.
The storytelling is great and this world that Reed has built is clearly his forte and will have any reader totally immersed in Deadworld. The only thing that is keeping me from giving this book a 5 is that I had to do a little research to understand what was going on. Even then I had to read the book twice to do this review and give it a fair shake.
There’s actually a lot more story than I’m recapping in this review, but I think it’s well worth the price of admission to actually pick this book up. You must get this if you’re even a casual fan of horror or anything zombie or undead-related. It’s clear The Walking Dead took some cues from this book (some of them honestly seem like blatant rip-offs), so go support a book that got the zombie genre right first.
Writer: Gary Reed Artist: Sami Makkonen Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/4/13