TOUCH THE ROD: A review of NEXT TESTAMENT #8

For a man who has so many comic books on the market dedicated to his work, Clive Barker has never really created something original for the medium until he came out with NEXT TESTAMENT. It’s great to see that for his first time out, he’s tackling big topics, like the nature of God and miracles. Barker never does things halfheartedly, after all.

Someone claiming to be God, who calls himself Wick, has been set free by an archaeologist named Julian Desmond, and together they are teaching humanity how they got everything wrong and what is really important to God. Stuck in the middle of this mess is Julian’s daughter, Elspeth, and her husband Tristan. They’re trying to make sense of all of the lunacy and trying to survive at the same time.

In this issue, Wick has tired of America and has gone in search of other countries, where people might have gotten his message right. He finds France … and a giant orgy under the EiffelTower. So naturally, he’s got to jump right in, right?

Meanwhile, Tristan and Elspeth are having troubles, as per usual. They just can’t get a break. With the world falling to pieces, they’ve probably suffered more than most people who managed to survive. At first, it seems like they’re getting lucky with Sue Ellen, a pious woman with a Good Samaritan streak running through her. Unfortunately, almost right away, the trio meets up with a killer who intends to fuck them all, including Tristan.

Mark Miller, who co-wrote this book with Barker, has been great so far with his depictions of violence and Wick’s truth. It has been interesting to see his lack of regard for human life, but it’s also interesting to see his excitement in such a sexual atmosphere, like an orgy. Granted, one cannot separate horror and sex when it comes to Barker, but the old boy still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Wick, after trying to drown himself in the pleasures of the flesh actually gets kind of bored with the whole thing. He thinks it’s a great idea, but in practice? He all but yawns.

Or maybe it’s because he’s distracted. Before, it seems like he isn’t very aware of Tristan and Elspeth, but now? In some weird way, he seems concerned about their intentions. That doesn’t sound like something God would be worried about, does it? Remember, though, he only CLAIMS to be God. In the past, it would seem that maybe, just maybe, he was a creature that people originally based the idea of God on, that maybe he was the Old Testament God, and not the one that came after. But now, even that looks questionable. No easy answers here, at least not yet. That’s a good sign.

Artist Haemi Jang can definitely keep up with such an epic, mind-sprawling story. His depiction of Wick is unlike any other God figure in fiction. Multi-colored, rapturous and even in moments of anger, he seems amused. And then, of course, there are the orgy scenes. Wow. No one could have done a better job.

There are only four issues left. You’d better get on board before this series ends. It’s shit you need to read.

NEXT TESTAMENT #8

Written by Clive Barker and Mark Miller

Illustrated by Haemi Jang

Published by Boom! Studios

22 pages

$3.99

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MONTRESOR? A review of THE PREMATURE BURIAL

Writer and illustrator Richard Corben is at his best when he adapts work from Lovecraft and Poe. As you can tell from the title, he’s going with Poe this time, but it’s not just “The Premature Burial.” No, we also get a kinda-sorta sequel to “The Cask of Amontillado.”

When Corben goes to work, one does not expect faithful adaptations. While he loves the old fashioned stuff, his tastes are definitely modern, full of grue and atrocity. It’s no surprise that the first story in this book contains blatant necrophilia (or, at least, attempted necrophilia).

Lucien tries his best to fuck his betrothed, but Victoria’s morals are too stiff for something like that to happen. Tired of the whole thing, Lucien poisons her, and when they go to bury her, he decides to get a little midnight delight. Too bad he fucked up his murder attempt; she’s still alive, and she wakes up in the middle of her violation. Oddly enough, she still wants to marry him, and this leads to a terrible dream sequence that might not be all that much of a dream sequence.

There is no matching the original story, but Corben has given us a great update. It works, and it’s creepy as all fuck. When Lucien dreams that he’s been buried alive, and he’s rotting, it’s truly chilling. To see someone so obviously still alive in such a decrepit body is shocking. And then, of course, there’s the ending.

The second story is hard to make out. At first, it seems like a sequel to Poe’s great tale, “The Cask of Amontillado,” since we see Montresor leading Fortunato’s wife down into the ossuary where any loyal Poe reader knows is where Montresor buried Fortunato alive. Yet when he and the wife descend, Montresor tells the story of “Amontillado,” until the sequel frame comes around again. It’s an odd way to adapt a story, but it works wonderfully. The ossuary is creepier and more beautiful than anything from a Corman adaptation. The conclusion of the sequel part is a bit iffy, but it’s definitely serviceable.

As ever, a Corben/Poe collaboration is not to be missed. Get it as soon as you can.

THE PREMATURE BURIAL

Written and illustrated by Richard Corben

Adapted from the work of Edgar Allan Poe

Published by Dark Horse

24 pages

$3.99

ENOUGH ALREADY! A review of ASH AND THE ARMY OF DARKNESS 2014 ANNUAL

Ash, the Chosen One, is sent back to medieval times where he battles deadites with his boomstick and a bunch of one-liners. Ah, fuck. We’re doing this again? Yes, it looks like we are.

In the most recent annual, Ash goes through the same motions as he’s always done, and just like in the recent monthly (the one before Steve Niles took over), he travels through time, gets involved with killing and deadites and even more one-liners, and blah blah blah. You know the rest.

Seriously. Why has Dynamite decided to put this issue out? It’s all the same equation. Nothing’s changed. There isn’t anything new and interesting that happens. It’s just more of the usual crap. Sure, it was fun at first, but you can’t just repeat yourself over and over again and expect people to stick with you.

And let’s face it, the one-liners aren’t that great this time around.

There is nothing to recommend this book. Not a single thing. But technically, it’s not Dynamite’s fault, at least not entirely. Ash is a one-note character, and we’ve seen that one note too many times. Dynamite has to go in a completely new direction if they want to keep Ash interesting and relevant. Remember when they did the infinite Ash storyline? That was cool, especially having a female Ash.

But honestly? There probably isn’t a new direction they can take, at least not without making Ash not Ash. Right now, the character is suffering from a terrible affliction, and he’s not alone. You see, comic book fans just can’t let shit go. They latch onto a character, and they have to keep them forever, even after they’ve run their course. How else has a lame character like Superman lasted as long as he has?

Nostalgia is a very powerful thing, but ultimately, it’s not a good thing. Artistically, it’s stagnation. It’s okay to look back fondly on Ash, G.I. Joe, Batman, Thundercats, Ghostbusters and all of that stuff. But to keep telling the same stories over and over again because it reminds you of the old days? You’re not progressing, and you need help.

THE TRANSFORMERS is the only exception to this rule. IDW has found a way to make them relevant to today’s audience. It’s very painful to think about it, but BUFFY ended when Sunnydale fell into the Hellmouth. DARK SHADOWS ended before many of us were even born. THE X-FILES ended when the CSM died. We will never have a third GHOSTBUSTERS movie. Indy should not have come back for a fourth movie. STAR WARS should have remained a trilogy.

And Ash’s story ended when he fucked up the magic words that should have brought him back home.

We need to let shit go. We need to be satisfied with endings. We need to expect more from art than simple nostalgia.

If you’re interested in sucking your own dick, here’s the details of the book this is supposed to be a review of:

ASH AND THE ARMY OF DARKNESS 2014 Annual

Written by Shannon Eric Denton

Illustrated by Nacho Tenorio

Published by Dynamite

32 pages

$4.99

[As an added note, it looks like Dynamite is bringing more Chaos! characters back, even though their new Evil Ernie book sucked. This is another example of comics people not letting shit go. Believe me, you’re not likely to find a bigger Chaos! fan than me, but I recognize the fact that this is bullshit. Even though their story technically ran on a little too long under the original Chaos! banner, I like to consider the conclusion of the ARMAGEDDON arc to be the true ending. We don’t need to bring these characters back.]

[Also, I feel I should apologize to Dynamite for this rant. Generally, I don’t like posting negative reviews, mostly because I want to tell people about cool shit, not garbage. It should be noted that this issue isn’t even the worst pop culture book on the market. It just happened to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. So, I’m sorry.]

NO, NOT THE KIND THAT RAPES PEOPLE: A review of SEX CRIMINALS #5

SEX CRIMINALS is, as you can imagine, a different kind of book. No, it’s not about people who rape other people. It’s a bit classier than that (and it should be noted that “classy” isn’t a word that ordinarily fits with this book). Suzie is a young woman who discovers that she can make time stop whenever she has an orgasm. One day, she meets Jon, who has the very same talent. Together, they share orgasms, stop time and fuck with the world. Sometimes it’s taking a shit in the boss’s potted plant, sometimes it’s trashing and robbing the local porn store. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones who can do this. There is a team of such folks who police special sex-time abusers, and they are now watching Suzie and Jon.

That’s a hard concept to sell, even with the comics industry as open as it is today. Keep in mind, we still live in a world where Vertigo refuses to publish the final PREACHER story, the one about the sexual investigators. Luckily, Image is more open than most places, and it’s an excellent fit.

In this issue, Suzie and Jon have been captured by the sex-time police as Suzie reflects over the course of her relationship with Jon and her deteriorating friendship with her roommate. We also explore the home life of the head of the sex-time police as she cooks up “din-din” for her family. It’s all crazy shit you wouldn’t expect from any other book on the market.

There must be something wrong with writer Matt Fraction for coming up with this lunacy, especially as he details the epic story of Jon and his boss’s potted plant, even as it escalates to the boss putting up signs demanding the unmasking of “the most disgusting human being ever.” He not only captures the grotesqueness of Jon’s fecal needs, but he can also capture the tender moments, as well. When he has Jon explain why he’s gone off his meds, it’s actually a beautiful scene. Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t get too serious. For example, you will never look at kegels the same way again. (You will also have a new word for your vocabulary: kegelface.)

But as awesome as Fraction can be, artist Chip Zdarsky steals the book with the little things, like the KISS THE COCK apron and Jon’s STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION Starfleet uniform during a sex session with Suzie. And why the fuck is there an America poster on their wall with a picture of JFK and Batman on it?!

Everything about this book is great. They don’t just do an ordinary “previously on …” section at the front of the book; they do it in dirty-limerick form. They ask you to send not just “letters & fan art” but also “quasi-erotic poems about semis.” Their “mature readers” warning reads thusly: “For mature readers DUH. For a good time, call out into the wild, ‘for mature readers’ and just wait for me.” They have the best letters page going in comics today, fraught with sex stories, kegelface galleries and glorious sex tips, like “you need to change your safeword every three weeks for security reasons and it must have numbers in it” and “you unlock many more backdoors with a finger than with a fist.”

If you’re a dirty son of a bitch, then you’re probably already reading this book. Right? RIGHT?! If not, what the fuck are you waiting for?

SEX CRIMINALS #5

Written by Matt Fraction

Illustrated by Chip Zdarsky

Published by Image

20 pages

$3.50

TITS AND VIOLENCE: A review of STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1

If you thought waiting a couple of years for Warren Ellis to finish MINISTRY OF SPACE was bad, then you’re clearly not familiar with STRAY BULLETS. Almost an entire decade passed between its penultimate issue and the release of the final issue last week. But writer and artist David Lapham is just getting revved up as is evidenced by this new series, STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS. Do you think Lapham has been mellowing with age?

Well, if you’ve been reading his CROSSED work, then you know the answer. Hell. Fucking. No. Sex and violence is spread lovingly over each page, and best of all, it fits perfectly with the story. No gratuitousness here.

But while he’s great at using such brutal brushes to paint his tales, Lapham’s strongest suit is remembering what it was like to be a kid. This is definitely a juvenile adventure from Hell. Take young Eli, for example. He doesn’t get out much, but he still manages to hang with a few friends. He’s got a special talent: drawing. Specifically, drawing tits. This excites the fuck out of his friends, and they clamor for his work, which he eagerly promises to deliver.

Remember when you were a kid and could jerk off to anything? Cartoon nudity, a Sears underwear catalogue, Goya’s Nude Maja, you name it, you could pull your pud to it. And then, of course, there were the glorious instances of when you found real porn, whether it was your old man’s VHS collection or a ripped up page from a skin mag in the woods. It’s hard to remember that in the internet age, when you don’t even need to try to find pictures of boobies. But Lapham remembers, and it brings a pang of nostalgia to one’s heart.

It’s a shame that Eli’s got a shitty home life. His mother’s never home. His dad finds more solace in drink and strippers than anything else. Poor Eli has to take care of his baby sister because there’s no one else around to do it. However, the reason he’s able to draw such realistic pictures of tits is because he sneaks with his dad to the local strip club, where he’s found a way in that doesn’t involve going past a bouncer.

He learns a lot here, and just like any wayward kid, he gets into a lot of trouble. Eli and his father discover at the same time that a friend’s sister works at the club, and they both flee. Unfortunately, Eli doesn’t make it out to the car in time, and he’s cornered by a very creepy, pedo-ish thug named Ronnie. Just as it looks like Eli is about to learn the true meaning of Stranger Danger, he is saved by Scottie, perhaps the most dangerous guy in the STRAY BULLETS universe. Scottie then offers to drive Eli home, but on the way, he stops to do an impromptu drive by because “you have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.”

Oddly enough, it seems like Scottie and Eli kind of like each other, mostly because Eli laughs at Scottie’s STAR WARS joke (this happens in 1978) and because Eli sees Scottie as an odd father figure, something he certainly isn’t getting from his actual father.

Of course, Eli has to tell his friend about his sister, and if you remember anything about being a kid, you know how that turns out: violence, name calling and demands to “take it back.” But that’s not the ending of this tragic tale. No, to get that, you’ll have to pick up the book. It helps that Lapham hasn’t abandoned the deliciously indie feel of the book’s art—it’s still in black and white, and it still looks like the old book. No surprise, since it’s still all done by Lapham and his wife Maria. No one else.

How in the name of fuck does a comic book from a major publisher get done with just two people working on it? Buy this book and find out.

STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1

Written and illustrated by David Lapham

Published by Image

30 pages

$3.50

WARREN ELLIS RETURNS TO COMIC BOOKS! A review of MOON KNIGHT #1

What the fuck is this? A new comic book by Warren Ellis? Hadn’t he given up comics to write novels? And if he was going to come back to comics, wouldn’t it make more sense to finish off DOKTOR SLEEPLESS and ANNA MERCURY 2? (We’ll not mention FELL. It doesn’t need an ending, since each issue is self contained. Although he does have an un-illustrated script for FELL done … But that’s more Ben Templesmith’s issue, not Ellis’s.)

No, instead of that, he goes back to Marvel to write MOON KNIGHT, of which this is the first issue. On the surface, this should be an interesting character for him to write. Once upon a time, Moon Knight was a human mercenary, but he was killed in Egypt, where his body fell under the influence of the deity Khonshu. He’s resurrected as a kinda-sorta superhero, but he’s got major mental problems. When we first encounter him in this issue, he’s been arguing with Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America, but they’re not actually there.

He volunteers to help hunt down a serial killer who likes murdering able-bodied men in incredibly gruesome ways. The police aren’t doing very well with the case, but Moon Knight has a theory that the guy might be hiding out in the labyrinth of tunnels under Manhattan.

Eh … there’s not much else to the book. It’s a detective story with a mad superhero as the protagonist. Shockingly, that’s not as fun as it sounds. It comes off as dry and ho-hum, even when Moon Knight finally finds the killer. Actually, the idea for the killer is pretty cool, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. The explanation for Moon Knight’s lunacy is excellent, as is the second-to-last panel in the book, but overall, it’s kind of a disappointment. Ellis returns to comic books only to work with superheroes again? His creator-owned work is where he shines at his best. TRANSMETROPOLITAN. His Avatar books. Stuff like RED. You know. This book doesn’t hold a candle to any of this work.

Artist Declan Shalvey fares a bit better. His work is pretty much what you would expect, except for three instances that really stand out. There’s the scene where Moon Knight descends into the tunnels beneath New York, which shows the many layers of existence living underground. (The best is the one with the bums cooking a cat.) Then there’s the killer, who looks absolutely demented. And lastly, there’s that second-to-last panel, which is unlike anything Marvel has ever published before.

All in all, this one’s not worth the read. Thankfully, Ellis has a creator-owned book coming out from Image soon called THE TREES. That one shows a lot more promise.

MOON KNIGHT #1

Written by Warren Ellis

Illustrated by Declan Shalvey

Published by Marvel

22 pages

$3.99

ROYAL BLOOD: A review of THE ROYALS: MASTERS OF WAR #1

You know the old bit about how royals are so important because they are God’s chosen to rule over their people? And the purer the blood, the more reason they had to wear the crown? Well, in the world of THE ROYALS, Vertigo’s new book, these two things are true. The royals get superpowers because they are God’s chosen. They can fly, they have super strength and they seem to be invulnerable, or as the Tick used to say, nigh-invulnerable.

This is the story of the King of England, who has decided that the Royals should not get involved in World War II. Just let the proles do the fighting while the important people sit back, party and enjoy some fine cognac. Actually, it’s not his story, it’s the story of his son, Prince Henry. For his own protection, the royals have been lying about his (and his sister’s) abilities, saying that they don’t have any. However, that’s not true, and Prince Henry is sick and tired of sitting by the sidelines. He’s seen the disaster of Hitler’s bombs. He’s seen the corpses and the unfortunate survivors. He wants to do something about this, so without telling his father, he launches himself into a battle in Berlin. And though his ultimate antagonist never leaves the shadows, could it be that his two-fisted adversary is Adolph Hitler himself?

This is a fun little book, because no writer would actually take the time to put this story together. Authors often have ideas that are just a little too silly or outlandish, and they hold on to them over years, sometimes decades, trying to figure out a way to get away with a story that no one else would think of because, well, come on. Either writer Rob Williams has major balls, or he’s actually figured out a way to make this story come off in an acceptable fashion. It’s probably the latter, because not only does a story that should be a throwaway tale come off not as silly, but as a serious work. Not only that, but a SUBVERSIVE work. One of the best scenes is when Lt. Col. Lockhart, who basically polices the royals, is teaching his new second-in-command, Squadron Leader Travis, the ropes. He explains that all of these bastards “could easily destroy every single Nazi plane that dares pass the British coastline. But, of course, they choose not to get involved.” This is kept from the British public, who is by and large dying out there, suffering because their leaders decide to let them fend for themselves. To prove a point, Lockhart asks Henry’s cunty brother why the royals don’t get involved. The response: “Well … I’d have thought that was blindingly obvious, Lt. Colonel, even to a man of your blatant lack of breeding, but I’ll happily spell it out for you. I am a prince. My life is extraordinarily enjoyable, and the gullible proles shoot their little guns and get blown to bits on my behalf. It’s quite a marvelous social system.” Yikes.

Luckily, Williams has teamed up with Simon Coleby, who is a wonderful artist for this story. He gets the genteel cuntiness of the royals’ lifestyle, but at the same time, he can tackle the gruesomeness of war, even as Prince Henry sails past a gunner trapped in a flaming, crashing plane, screaming for help. As Prince Henry flies through the air with the rest of the warplanes, he looks like an evil, angry Superman, ready to kick ass, take names and then piss all over those names.

This book has the makings of greatness in it. Too bad it’s only a mini-series. In the coming issues, it should be interesting to see Prince Henry and Hitler in a superhero battle with each other.

THE ROYALS: MASTERS OF WAR #1

Written by Rob Williams

Illustrated by Simon Coleby

Published by Vertigo

22 pages

$2.99

WHEN NIKA MET WILLIAM: A review of TRILLIUM #6

Writer and illustrator Jeff Lemire has brought us something special with his new book for Vertigo, TRILLIUM. It’s the story of two lovers from completely different times. Nika comes from the far future, where the last remnants of the human race are being hunted by the Caul, and William is a World War I vet who now serves as an explorer, despite being deeply haunted by the horrors of war. Due to a portal hidden in an Aztec ziggurat, they meet and fall in love, and thanks to the military assholes in the future, the portal is destroyed, and somehow, William and Nika switch lives. Not places. LIVES. Only they know that they don’t belong in their respective new worlds, and now they try desperately to find each other again.

One of the cool things about being not just the writer, but also the artist, is that you can lay out the book however you want to. Lemire has been doing some amazing things with this series, changing the way one reads a comic book. In this issue, Nika’s story is read right side up, from left to right. If you want William’s story, turn the book over and read right to left. And then there are the moments when their stories run parallel, where you have to flip the book around with each new panel. Something like this shouldn’t work, but in Lemire’s hands, it works incredibly well.

However, this is one of the slower issues in the series. There is a bit too much exploration of Nika’s past, and the time she wastes in an asylum is somewhat annoying. While her story stagnates just a bit, William is getting shit done. Every advancement in Nika’s story comes as a result of someone else’s action, while William is kicking ass and taking names.

Truthfully, it’s kind of shocking that the series went on after the portal was destroyed. That would have been the perfect ending to the series. As a result, everything that comes after feels kind of forced, as if Lemire has more issues to work with, and he doesn’t know what to do with them. Thankfully, it looks like the lovers will soon be reunited, and time and space will be repaired. Maybe then a more coherent and interesting story will take place.

It’s a fun book. It’s an unusual book. And it’s a mind-bending book. Right now, it’s not at its strongest, but it looks like it will be soon. Despite its weakness, it is still one of the best books on the racks. Get on board as soon as you can.

TRILLIUM #6

Written and illustrated by jeff Lemire

Published by Vertigo

20 pages

$2.99

HITTING THE STREETS AND BUSTING HEADS: A review of DREDD UNDERBELLY

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A lot of you missed DREDD in the theaters, thinking you were going to get more of the Stallone/Schneider slop from years ago. Luckily, many of you are finding it on DVD and learning the error of your ways. There is currently a push to get a sequel made, and UNDERBELLY is a one-shot book that is attempting to help get people begging for more.

Psych is the new drug on the streets, and it makes “Slo-mo look like candy.” It’s made from irradiated mutants from the Cursed Earth smuggled in under the false pretense that they were sneaking over the border for a better life. It falls to Dredd and Anderson to find the creeps behind it and put them away in iso-cubes … if the perps are lucky.

Writer Arthur Wyatt gets the feel of the film down perfectly in comic book format. He gets the ultraviolence and ugly humor. It’s like he’d written the script for the movie himself. In one scene, he shows off the perfect essence of Dredd. When he and Anderson meet up at the start of the case, Anderson gives him shit for not supplying pleasant small talk. His response? “I hear your arrests are up to quota. Good.”

But he’s not without his flaws. For one, this story is just too big for such a thin book. A lot happens, and because of its brevity, it seems like Wyatt rushed his way through it. For another, the film depends on a drug named Slo-mo. To use a similar drug as the focus of the book—even though mutant trafficking is a major part of that—seems a little lazy.

Artist Henry Flint was born to illustrate Dredd. Carlos Ezquerra will always be the perfect Dredd artist, but Flint is definitely up there, maybe in the top three. It’s hard to pull off futuristic and gritty at the same time, and Flint is wonderful at it.

You need this book. And we all need a DREDD sequel. Support the cause. Buy this book and sign the online petition here.

DREDD: UNDERBELLY

Written by Arthur Wyatt

Illustrated by Henry Flint

Published by 2000AD

30 pages

$3.99

ZOMBIES? AGAIN?! A review of EMPIRE OF THE DEAD #1

[WARNING: This review contains spoilers. I don’t ordinarily like to do that, unless it is something so important to the story that it must be mentioned in such a forum. Proceed with caution.]

All right, fine. Zombies made George A. Romero’s name. But do you remember when he used to make other movies? Movies that didn’t have zombies in them? It’s like he’s bought into his persona as the guy who made the zombie movies, and he just can’t stop making them. He also did TOE TAGS a few years ago, a zombie comic book. Now he comes at us with EMPIRE OF THE DEAD, a new miniseries from Marvel.

To be fair, this book starts out pretty well. Romero is treading some ground he’s already gone over before, but it’s not bad. In zombie-infested New York City, Paul Barnum (and isn’t that a wonderful name for such a man?) works at keeping the living in entertainment, ie. he seeks out aggressive zombies for the gladiator pit. Penny Jones, a doctor, has just teamed up with him, not because she particularly likes him, but because he can help her find what she’s looking for: a trainable zombie. She reasons that if they can be trained to fight in the pit, they can be trained for other things. She doesn’t elaborate this point, so we don’t know what her endgame is quite yet. Throw into the middle of this mess a former soldier under Barnum’s command who is now a sentient zombie, and you have an interesting combination of chaos.

But Romero makes two mistakes that ruin the book. One of them is understandable, and the other is an awful stunt.

In the case of the former, we flashback to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. It turns out that Penny is Barbara’s sister, and when Johnny pulled her out of the farmhouse, he didn’t kill her. Instead, he dragged her to the barn, where it becomes clear that he recognized her and wanted to save her life. As a result, he gets killed by the zombie hunters, and Barbara’s life is spared. It’s easy to see why Romero would want to do this, since it fits with his current theme, but to go back in time and undo one of the most powerful scenes of your original masterpiece is a cheat.

The latter is by far the worst crime in the book. The mayor of New York, the guy who orders Barnum around, has a nephew who goes around with an eye patch and a stupid cape. At first, the reader is supposed to take him for an asshole, but as it turns out, this kid is actually … a vampire. That’s right, Romero himself has introduced vampires into a story that is supposed to be LIVING DEAD canon. Has Romero not been paying attention to his genre? Perhaps he’s unaware that something like this is nothing more than a stunt? Fonzie? Meet the shark. Good luck jumping it.

Artist Alex Maleev is one of the only saving graces of this book. If not for his stark, hard illustrations, this book would be a complete loss. He takes his subject matter seriously, and he does the best he can to live up to it and beyond.

Romero used to be a great storyteller, at least until he decided to devote his career to telling zombie stories. Let’s face it, DIARY OF THE DEAD was fucking awful, and while SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD wasn’t as bad, it still wasn’t all that good. He needs to move beyond this artistic rut. Does it earn him a lot of money? Probably. But if he gave in to that temptation, his previous messages would mean nothing. One hopes he can free himself from this, but people keep encouraging his current “creative” path, so it’s not likely he’ll move on.

EMPIRE OF THE DEAD #1

Written by George A. Romero

Illustrated by Alex Maleev

Published by Marvel

29 pages

$3.99