One of the (many) things I like about “iZombie” is that it’s completely and utterly dependable. I feel like Chris Roberson and Michael Allred have gotten the title to the point where, month in and month out, I know what sort of tone and enjoyment I’m going to get out of the book. It’s the comic book version of a warm blanket and a mug of hot chocolate.
While “iZombie” nominally has story arcs, the book is more of a rambler than anything else, each issue flowing into the next. That said, “iZombie” #17 was enough of a turning point for the series (#18 was a one-off story with art by the great Jay Stephens filling in the origin of a supporting character) that with #19, I feel like Roberson’s actually at the start of the next chapter of the series. After all, Gwen’s in hiding, FEMA is in town because of the zombie invasion, the Dead Presidents and Gravediggers are each still prowling around town, Ellie’s got an ambulatory corpse to look after, and Spot?
Well, Spot’s story takes a big turn this month, and it’s an intriguing twist. It’s not so much an, “Everything you knew was wrong!” moment, but rather one that recasts a lot of his earlier moments in a slightly different light. Watching him awkwardly interacting with Gavin gives the reader so much hope that just for once, Spot’s going to have something really, truly good happen to him. And then Roberson introduces the Phantasm, for a rather interesting twist on the subject. The idea of a body-hopping spirit that has had television series dating back to at least the ’60s (I’m thinking in many ways it’s got a slight bit of inspiration from the Shadow) is an interesting addition to the supporting cast, and considering how many supernatural beings are already in “iZombie,” I especially like that this doesn’t feel like ground we’ve already hit.
By the time Roberson gets back to Gwen and her dilemma of learning that Amon had convinced her to commit suicide, it’s telling that I’d forgotten all about our main character. Her storyline is interesting too, and after all it’s part of the central mystery of the series. And considering it’s just a few pages, the fact that Roberson can pack it all into just that moment says a lot about how well he shifts main characters in and out of the spotlight. (We barely get any Ellie this month, for example, but I don’t feel like we needed to.)
Allred’s art this month looks exceptionally crisp; the small break every six issues is clearly doing him some good. And don’t get me wrong, I love how well he draws their faces, their hair, their body language (look how hesitant Ellie is as she leaves Gwen in the crypt), the whole nine yards. But it’s the fashions and the backgrounds that keep jumping out at me. Ellie’s retro groovy wardrobe is always such a treat, and the little discards of food containers in Gavin’s living room are excellent. And as for the Phantasm… he’s got such a simple character design, but it’s so effective, from the swoosh of his trail behind him, to the streams of smoke as he rises up. Wonderfully creepy/cool, and Todd Klein makes sure to give the Phantasm his own special font and word balloons for the occasion.
“iZombie” month in and month out is dependable and enjoyable, two qualities that are a real blessing when together in comics. This is as good a jumping-on point as you’re going to find, although if you give this one a whirl, be warned you’ll want to check out the previous 18 issues as well. (Don’t worry, the first year’s already been collected into two volumes, which should help matters a great deal.) “iZombie,” you can take a bite out of me whenever you want.