November 1, 2009

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Bogus Dead

Written and Illustrated by Various Creators, including Graham Annable, Gabrielle Bell, Kevin Huizenga, James Kochalka, and Jim Mahfood
Edited by Jerome Gaynor

Okay, let's see here. It's an anthology, filled with creators I really like. Check.

Said anthology is about zombies. Check.

Rob is the one writing the review? Check.

Yeah, this is one of those "Did they make this just for me?" books, and the review is going to be glowing accordingly. You've been warned.

I don't know much about the editor, Jerome Gaynor, other than he draws zombie smurfs on invitations to participate in this anthology. However he managed to get everyone together on this project, it was well worth it, as the stories, despite containing a similar theme, are varied in structure, art style, and storytelling but have a very solid overall quality. This could have easily become a set of typical horror stories, but those involved in the process work very hard to keep the material fresh--well, as fresh as a zombie gets anyway.

Heck, Kochalka even went so far as to tell a story about telling a story about zombies. Take that, theme! (A shame, too, because the idea he had--Zombie McDonald's--would be great.)

As with my reviews of other anthologies, I am only going to highlight my favorites here, leaving it up to you to explore the work and see for yourself which stories you liked best. It's like trading candy on Halloween with your friends to get the best loot!

I first saw Jim Mahfood's work as part of Ultimate Team-Up, where he drew my favorite issue. His entry is right in line with all of his other work I've read, full of 4th wall-breaking notes, rediculously proportioned people, and curse words. In other words, it's great.

Tom Hart, who I'm pretty sure I've seen before but I can't place where, uses a lot of little panels to show that true love (and fine fashion) will never die. His line work is similar to Jason but shrunk down to little tiny boxes, especially in his ability to make skull-heads expressive.

Graham Annable, a contributor to Flight, spins a web of revenge, using the most pedestrian of situations to make the idea as comical as possible. Props to him for putting Homer Simpson hair on the ghoul with a goal.

At first, I thought Gabrielle Bell was going to give us a metaphorical zombie story, which would mesh well with her personal comics style. But then things change up and we get an ending that's worthy of a Treehouse of Horror story. I was pretty impressed by the humour of her story, as I've not really seen that from her before.

Can zombies and humans live together after all? Thanks to K. Thor Jensen, we may never know. Thanks a lot, you bastard! (And speaking of bastards, even Alexander Hamilton gets into the zombie act, courtesy of Megan Kelso.)

Not every creator used traditional narrative style to tell their story. Ariel Bordeaux uses a sliding 2-page splash to tell her worrysome tale of being embarassed by her zombie self. It's probably the best example of being experimental with the art style in this anthology.

Paul Lyons is the anti-Tom Hart, taking almost a full-page for each panel in his presentation of a pretty nifty zombie trap. I do wonder about the stability of the structure, however.

Robyn Chapman and Gaynor himself provide the two most touching stories in this anthology, giving the work a definite change of pace between the insanity. Chapman has a man so desperate for an answer to his wife's tragic death that he risks his own life, with only his sister to save him. It's a powerful tale in just a few pages. Gaynor's story reminded me a bit of The Road, only better because the ending was far more uncertain.

If that's too much for you, Kee Kennedy will give you a zombie nursery rhyme, in the Gorey tradition. This features arguably my favorite line in the book, with perfect accompaniment: "Zombies in a huddle, zombies in a pile, zombies claiming victims, grusome zombie smile."

Appropriately enough, Dan Zettwoch ends the anthology with a story of fragile hope against the zombie horde, looking off into the sunset. Like any good modern zombie feature, there should never be a feeling of total closure, especially not one of escape.

Again, this collection was very solid, so I'm not trying to slight anyone by omitting the story that artistically resembled R. Crumb or Kevin Huizenga's quirky reversal of Little Red Riding Hood, I just couldn't write about everyone's story and keep this at a readable length.

I will say that I am very impressed by Gaynor's structuring of the stories, which I think helps make this anthology even better than it might have been in other hands. He paces the stories, keeping the flow of energy rising and falling to give the reader time to really enjoy each work as its own and not "hey that's the fith joking zombie story in a row." The opening and closing pieces feel like opening and closing stories in both tone and visual appeal. And best of all--he tells you who wrote/drew the damned thing at the bottom of each page.

Those are all little touches but they help maket this a cohesive whole that I heartily recommend if you can find a copy. I got mine from the library, but I know I'm going to search around for this one to have for my very own.

That is, if the zombies don't get me first!