Had I been pressed to respond to the first couple of “iZombie” issues, I would have basically said, “great art, not much in the way of story.”
With issue #3, the Michael Allred art has undergone a strange slip in quality, but the story has finally started to come together. While the first two issues may have done a fine job setting the stage for the plot to come, they didn’t feel like they had all that much to say. Issue #3 is where the story finally starts to unfold in a way that’s dramatic and meaningful, and that helps make this issue the best of the bunch so far.
Allred’s art is still good in this issue — he’s Mike Allred, and he’s one of the best comic book artists of his generation — but there are panels that seem oddly unpolished, particularly for Allred, who has a precision to his work that some readers can find a bit cold. But Allred draws a few panels in this issue that seem rushed, or finished by assistants, or something different from the norm. There’s one panel with the group sitting around a table in a diner that looks like it was drawn by someone aping Allred’s style, but not getting the details right. Then there are the panels throughout the issue in which the hands are rendered sloppily, as quick brush strokes rather than the meticulous contouring usually seen in Allred’s work.
But even with those stumbles, “iZombie” is a great fit for Allred, and it’s even easier to say that now that we’ve seen more of the direction in which the series seems to be headed. By this point, Chris Roberson has revealed this series to be a postmodern “Scooby Doo” kind of affair. It’s an ironic, self-conscious take on the kid detective genre, only the detectives aren’t really kids — just likeable undead girls and a dog-faced boy who operate with an innocence usually reserved for Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.
In this issue, ghost-girl Ellie (who’s been dead since the 1960s, dresses like it, and is the perfect outlet for Allred’s style) and zombie-girl Gwen (who can read the minds of the dead) investigate a suspicious mansion, after having a rendezvous at the local diner where they get their intel from a shy lycanthrope. And a pair of apparent vampire hunters pursue their prey in a parallel story that overlaps for a fleeting moment outside the diner.
The tone is fun, the situations fraught with peril, and Roberson gives these characters strong personalities through their dialogue in this issue. I’ve stuck with this series just for Allred’s art, but now I’m interested in what happens next — and how. “iZombie” is turning into another quality Vertigo series, by the looks of things.