“THE OTHER DEAD” (Comic Review)
Animals have often been the harbingers of new disease. The Bubonic plague was credited to arriving on the back of rats, while the Bird Flu epidemic pretty much explains itself. With THE OTHER DEAD we are introduced to a brand of animal illness previously only seen in certain type of manipulative parasite: zombies. Instead of the shambling dead hoofing it with the humans, this particular series aims to explore the possibility of a four-legged terror threatening to destroy the known world. Thick with blood and guts as it is with political and social commentary, THE OTHER DEAD heads in a new direction as it ties together human fear and frailty and its effect on the environment through the collective revolt of the world’s lesser evolved creatures.
Beginning with the classic story of Dick Cheney’s infamous hunting trip, the comic pulls no punches as the former vice president blows the head off of a wild deer. After a few pats on the back, the team quickly loses its stride as the kill stands back up, short one head. The comic quickly cuts to life in small town America, where a group of teenagers is out murdering ducks in the name of Satan while they dream of musical stardom. Casually hinting at the beginning of the end, the story jumps between scenes of devastation from the New Orleans flooding, an isolated house in the woods, and a whole squadron of undead ducks out for revenge. With more questions than answers, THE OTHER DEAD leaves the reader with an image of the White House and the one man who can change the course of history.
If it seems like the plot of the comic is a bit vague, it unfortunately is. Perhaps only being the first issue, the story is allowed to fumble around a little, but the heavy references to ecological and political terror while playing around with animal zombies is a bit heavy-handed for its first time out. It’s interesting to see a zombie work where there is more government involvement in what is most likely going to be a global epidemic, however. While most similar titles would erase the whole angle, opting for a more “humanity stands alone” story line, THE OTHER DEAD is very much aware of the responsibility that we as citizens hold our government to. It’s also worth mentioning that the use of real life figureheads and events, instead of politicians invented purely for the story, is a nice touch, but needs to be tread carefully. While it is easy to play off already established ideologies, there is a threat of marginalizing the comic and isolating its fans who may not share the same views.
That could be because the characters are very much caricatures of real people, with the Satanists sporting mohawks and bad attitudes while the single mothers are over-worked and under-paid. It reads very much as “by the book,” but perhaps issue two will bring all that around. The art as well falls just a tad short of being really good. Digger T. Mesch has a unique style which focuses on heavy detail and raunchy imagery, but the anatomy balance is painfully skewed. Angles bow off in odd directions and facial expressions are stiff and unimaginative. Despite this, THE OTHER DEAD is attempting something a lot of comics do not: re-think the zombie mythos. That alone is worth a mention.