Kevin Eastman will forever be best known as co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but lesser known is his “Zombie War”, originally co-created with Tom Skulan back in 1992, well after “TNMT” but long before zombies had shambled their way into their own pop-culture genre. “Zombie War” #1 by Eastman, Skulan and Eric Talbot, is the first of a two-issue micro-series that is decidedly different from most of this generation’s zombie stories.
“Zombie War” #1 is most definitely a rotted-tongue-in-decomposed-cheek comic and is best enjoyed as such. While modern comics like “The Walking Dead” demand to be taken seriously, “Zombie War” reads and looks more like a 1970s-era underground comic, so it might not appeal to anyone looking for or expecting a typical Romero-esque tale of the dead coming back to life. This is not your child’s zombie comic; forget about mindless, flesh-craving monsters who remain vulnerable to a shot to the head; Eastman and Skulan’s ghouls have none of these characteristics. The writers borrow from George Romero’s original postulation of the outbreak being space-born, but the similarities largely end there. The creatures here are intelligent, and their universal desire to destroy the living here is based on a shared goal, not by primal instinct, evoking a whole different kind of feel, but one that’s nonetheless horrific.
This book isn’t about characterization. It isn’t a parable about human nature. There are no themes or subtext here. This is all about zombies taking over the world, and all of the gratuitous, blatant and in-your-face gore and violence that comes with it. While Eastman and Talbot glorify all the grotesquery with a number of cartoonish splash pages and double page spreads, most of the other pages are crowded with eight to twelve panels each, requiring careful examination at times to comprehend the action. Colorist Ronda Pattison at times overuses darker colors which obscure some of the clarity on the smaller panels, but overall it makes for a more immersive reading experience; a lot of the fun comes from taking a closer look at each panel and appreciating all of the ugly detail that goes into each one. Even the lettering, which will be considered crude by some, adds to the yesteryear feel of this comic.
One aspect of this comic is that the resurrection of the dead is focused on deceased military members, which might touch a nerve in this modern day where those who serve are rightfully treated with more reverence now than a generation ago. Clearly no disrespect is intended, but that could be missed by those who don’t “get” this comic and its deliberate sensationalist, over-the-top approach. “Zombie War” #1 is shallow, sure, but it’s also a fun, guilty pleasure that shows what zombies were like before they were cool.