By now I’m just about as sick of zombie and vampire stories as everyone else, but there’s still a lot to love with Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard’s “The New Deadwardians.” If you haven’t read this new mini-series yet, the setup is clever; in Edwardian times, a zombie plague began to break out. The upper class, discovering that zombies are not interested in vampires, use vampirism as a “cure”/inoculation against becoming a zombie. Meanwhile, the still-human lower classes continue to struggle against the zombie menace.
It’s a smart idea, and Abnett uses this setting wonderfully for “The New Deadwardians” as our main character Chief Inspector George Suttle is investigating the blatant murder of one of the Young, the term used for vampires in this brave new world. “The New Deadwardians” is as much a travelogue as it is a mystery, and it’s enchanted me more and more with each issue. “The New Deadwardians” #3 gives us a glimpse into the romantic and sexual natures of those who have been turned into the Young and how it’s affected their lives. Abnett continues to play against type; instead of taking inspiration from properties like “Twilight” or “True Blood,” here we get a mostly deadened libido, along with the sudden realization that it’s something that Suttle lost when he was turned.
I think that’s part of what makes “The New Deadwardians” so engrossing; Suttle’s learning not only about the parts of his world that he doesn’t normally enter, but about himself as well. This issue’s narration notes that the passage of time is something that the Young lose track of once they’ve changed and as a result it makes sense that there are other aspects of their new life that they’ve failed to recognize until it’s pointed out to them. It’s a reminder that this cure comes at a greater price than most would expect, and Abnett plays it in a matter-of-fact manner; there’s no melodrama but almost a wistful, muted emotion here. And really, that helps sell the ideas that Abnett’s giving us.
Culbard helps bring that overall mood to life (or unlife, as the case might be) here, too; there’s a soft, polished veneer on his characters. When we get a glimpse into Suttle’s life back when he was still a human, fighting the Restless, it’s suddenly more vibrant and full of life. And then, just as quickly, it’s that quiet and more contained look. I don’t ever recall seeing Culbard’s art before “The New Deadwardians,” but he’s a real find.
“The New Deadwardians” #3 continues the high level of quality that the first two issues began. This comic might be just an 8-issue mini-series, but hopefully it’s the first of many. There’s enough story potential here to go on for a long time to come. Even if this is all we get, though, I’m along for the ride. Who knew zombies and vampires could be fun and inventive again?