In the last few months, we silently kept an eye on Zombie With A Shotgun. We stalked the comic on Twitter and often chatted about its development among ourselves. When publication was finally announced, I was excited at the chance to get my hands on this independent project.
The book’s price-tag also attracted our team’s attention. The first issue costs so little that we didn’t really feel like asking for a review copy. Instead, I personally forked over a few bucks and added the digital version to my collection. I approached it as a complete newcomer, never having had anything to do with this franchise before.
Was investing in it a good idea? I guess you’re about to find out!
Success Is All About Meeting People’ Expectations
Just like a standard novel, comics should be able to enthrall their readers from the very first pages. Zombie With A Shotgun tries its best to achieve that, dropping us right into a breathtaking military operation. A group of soldiers is storming what appears to be a research lab; possibly looking for a specific target.
Tone and art-style perfectly convey the message behind this first part of the plot. The pages feature high amounts of blues, grays and greens, giving the idea of a cold and inhospitable environment. Dialogues shrink to a minimum, almost disappearing while the whole scene unfolds.
Unfortunately, this carefully-crafted series of events leads nowhere. The raid fails and the entire squad rushes back to the helicopter, fearing for their lives. A brief conversation among some of the officers tries to contextualize the whole section, but only manages to further add to the noise.
The camera then pans to an entirely new location, eventually hopping to a third one as the story progresses. None of the soldiers makes a comeback in the next few pages. Instead, readers get to meet a zombie up close and are let in on the fact that there’s a mysterious virus behind the horde. Considering the opening scene, I was expecting a bit more than a car ride and a few lines of text.
The rest of this issue of Zombie With A Shotgun is mainly a carousel of characters that show their faces in rapid succession. There’s a group of good guys and a rather generic evil dude who seems unable to stop talking about money. Some scantly dressed women with guns also make a appearance, for some reason.
Skipping A Few Beats Along The Road
An uncanny feeling accompanies the reader throughout today’s booklet. Every once in a while, with no rime or reason, the narration just seems to dash ahead. Scenes and environments suddenly change, trampling any resemblance of cohesion. More than a smooth experience, Zombie With A Shotgun appears as a mishmash of individual subplots.
To a first timer, the entire story-line inevitably looks as if someone had pieced it together while a hurry. Instead of easily sliding us into the action, the comic just bombards us with concepts that we’re supposed to blindly accept. Such writing choices might help create curiosity, but also prevent most people from developing a real bond with the characters.
At this point, I’d like to speak directly to the guys behind the book. The next few lines are going to contain a handful of spoilers, so skip ahead if you want to avoid them! I don’t want to see people complaining in the comments, you’ve been warned!
Killing off someone that’s so close to the protagonist is an extremely effective plot twist. It allows for the entire flow of your story to be redirected and – when done at the right time – can leave your readers speechless and wanting for more. The problem is, at least in this case, that we weren’t given the chance to get attached to that someone first!
When random chick in bikini #1 shot Steve dead, I didn’t feel sad; I didn’t want for his memory to be avenged. In fact, all I thought was “Whoops, guess that’s one less name I need to worry about”. The whole scene simply didn’t resonate with me. I sincerely couldn’t care less if I tried to!
So.. No Dice At All?
Despite its shortcomings, I wouldn’t exactly burn this one yet. Perhaps purely out of professional interest, I’m still going to buy issue number 2 and see how things change. Drawings and price remain the primary selling points for me, but I believe the guys are more than capable to provide a solid narration as well.
One last thing: I did my homework and know that Zombie With A Shotgun comes from a web-series, but many might not. There’s no doubt that the two media complement each other. What can’t be found on paper is probably available on film.
The issue I have with that is that I was forced to stop reading and pull out my phone to find out more. If this were a video-game, critics from all over the internet would bash it for breaking the immersion. Comics – at least in my opinion – shouldn’t be exempt from that treatment.
Instead of waving your readers goodbye with a collection of pictures from the set, you should have made the connection clearer from the start. Those who never followed you before would have appreciated a heads-up. In the future, including fragments of the series into the comic might help!