There has never been a zombie/vampire story that has interested me more than The New Deadwardians and it rejuvenated my faith in both genres. I know that some of you just sighed as you realized that yes this story does deal with both horror genres that I’ve listed, but trust me… you’ll want to read this series after hearing the concept. Simply put the world is overrun by zombies and the only cure for it is vampirism. The catch is that the cure isn’t given to everyone; mostly the rich and the privileged while the rest of us are left living with a twinge of fear about both groups. It’s 1910 in London and our main character George Suttle is lying in bed unable to sleep. He makes vague mentions, but it’s soon clear that he’s a vampire; just not one by any traditional sense of the word. He hears a ruckus downstairs and calls for his butler and housekeepers. The butler arrives and it becomes clear that something has gotten into the house. George heads downstairs and runs into the kitchen to discover a “restless” eating his housekeeper/cook. He tells his butler to fetch the night patrol police and grabs his service rifle in the meantime and shots the zombie/restless’ head off. Around this time the police arrive and they question him about his firearm since this is London and they’re not common place. George presents his badge and it’s revealed that he’s the lone member of the police forces Murder Squad aka Homicide division.
George checks the rest of the hose and discovers that his other housekeeper has been bitten. She begins to panic not wanting to turn into a restless, but George tells her that he’ll arrange for her to take the “cure.” The cure is being transformed into a vampire or as they’re called “Young.” The next morning George checks in on his bed-ridden mother who is unaware of the previous night’s events. He bails out of the conversation with her so that he can leave for work and she asks him if anyone actually dies anymore. From there George takes his housekeeper to receive the cure and get checked up himself. He receives a blood transfusion and asked if his teeth need filing down, but then the real question is asked, “Are you experiencing any tendencies?”
At work we see George head to the Murder Room where his desk in the back corner is the only one not covered by a sheet. His boss comes in and asks about his trouble the night before and checks on him to make sure he’s sleeping and such. Another officer comes in with an actual murder for George to look into, but everyone’s ready to rule it as anything but. George heads to the crime scene to find a naked man dead and missing his right hand. Here we learn about the protests of Zone B which is where the “Brights” live. The “Brights” are normal living breathing people that haven’t had the cure and are not dead and Restless. From here George discovers that the murder victim is from nobility and his first murder case in several years is about to become very complicated.
What makes this story come to life is the cultural vocabulary used. The terms like “Young” for vampires and “Bright” for humans are essentially class labeling hidden in slang; even the term "Restless" for the zombies in a way represents the lowest of classes. Nothing about this book is simple, there is layer after layer of social commentary hidden within the class system that unwraps as the mystery does. George’s case also continues to become more complex and tie into other story elements as he gets closer to solving it. With it being nobility of course the government and higher ups just want the case to go away, but George is not willing to simply sweep it underneath the carpet.
The writing is superb and some of Dan Abnett’s best. As a solo writer he’s quite thorough and meticulously maps together the plot from beginning to end including all your questions about how vampires can function in daylight. I refuse to spoil all those fun details for you becaue there are just so many details and elements to cover with this book, that it’s as much fun to talk about as it is to read and that’s really telling of the quality. Abnett has wonderful dialog that captures the dialect and mannerisms of London; the simple consistent pattern of people checking in with George about his health and urges has that classic English charm to it. The murder plot is not overly complex, but the plot elements that come from it are. It was an interesting back drop that was quite efficient for the story.
The art is gorgeous as it captures the era in which the book is set. What was great about the art was that the restless are unthreatening. They lurk and sit just outside the gates of the city within constant view of the citizens, but for the most part are rarely acknowledged. When it is acknowledged it’s usually by a Bright that’s sitting with a Young and the art captures the awkwardness of the situation with the body language between the two people. The book for the most part has a gloomy hue to it and quite color tones that play to the deadening feel the story has.
I have to say that I was really taken by this story. It’s a great twist on two classic genres that will captivate you to the very end. The plot twists are many and always interesting and the art is consistently good and very detailed. What’s even better is that it’s a one and done style of story meaning that everything is wrapped up and concluded within the volume with no messy sequel set up. I’m sure the world could be revisited, but frankly the book is so rewarding that it would be a shame to ruin a good thing. We all know that there is a ton of vampire and zombie stories out there in circulation on a consistent base, but this book is so different that it’s hard to group it in with all the others. Even if you’re not a fan of horror you should pick it up it’s so damn good and if you are you'll love it even more.
Writer: Dan Abnett Artist: Ian Culbard Publisher: Vertigo Comics Price: $14.99 Release Date: 2/12/13