I must confess that I haven’t read a BOOM! comic for a while. In fact, the last series was DuckTales for our similarly themed podcast episode.
Key of Z intrigued me though, written as it is by partners Claudio Sanchez (of band Coheed & Cambria) and Chondra Echert, the pair behind writing the bold Kill Audio series about an immortal troll. Plus the artist here is Aaron Kuder is also responsible for Sanchez’s The Amory Wars. Time for another confession – I’ve read little of either, but I know both were filled with big ideas and daring art, so their take on zombies I had to see. Yes, I know zombies are the flavour of the month, or rather year, but having not been exposed to much Walking Dead (although I’m keen for Australia to get the TV series), I thought it was worth a look.
Opening with Nick Ewing and his family having a lovely time during Christmas Eve, they have their pleasant bonding interrupted by a zombie Santa outside their window, which is as freaky as it sounds. Jumping forward to 2012, the undead epidemic is underway and New York is divided into three fiefdoms, or Houses who live in the stadiums of the Mets, Yankees and Madison Square Garden. It’s an interesting setup to what could’ve been yet another predictable apocalyptic tale. Jumping forward to 2016, Ewing is out getting some fresh air (whereas most survivors prefer the safety of their sporting stadium). Seeing Ewing grow a beard and muscles over the span of 5 years is a nice and realistic touch, and it’s here that he meets Eddie Alvarez, a skinny, scared collector who lives at a library, and is virtually ignored by his own gang. They slowly befriend one another and exchange recent life stories before a detour to a cave of antique weapons and a surprise attack by a mass of flesh eaters.
Editor Matt Gagnon’s letter mentions what is fairly obvious, with comic DMZ, Walking Dead and cult film The Warriors being an influence on this story, and I get the feeling that only being vaguely aware of those 2 series has helped me enjoy this more. Gagnon also mentions that Ewing’s wife and boy were murdered, although that’s not overtly stated in this first issue.
In the second issue which is set two years before the debut ish, we get to know the three houses more. Atwater is the more educated leader and reminds me of Morpheus in the last Matrix film, whereas Lavoe is far less interested in the needs of others and resembles Scarface, in his tax charging and brutal regime. The pair meet for a treaty and Lavoe bluntly states that he isn’t interested in any altruistic deal with Atwater and Jackson. In the aftermath of the devastation, Ewing learns that a silver harmonica his son gave him on that fateful Christmas has magical properties. Well, perhaps magical’s not the best word, but it’s certainly unique and when played properly, give shim the powers of a putrified Pied Piper, bringing the zombies right to him. It seems like an odd ability, but I guess Ewing is stronger and faster than the zombies, so at least he knows where they are and can destroy them so as not to be surprised later.
Ending with more interaction between Ewing and Alvarez, and a mission for revenge steers the last two issues of this mini-series to a good place.
Kuder’s art has to be mentioned. With its fluid linework, and simple, yet effective details such as textures it evokes Frank Quitely. Coupled with Charlie Kirchoff’s col0ur choices (subdued and quite hazy during dramatic scenes, bold during the zombie bashing) it looks pretty and never ventures into bloodthirtsy territory. Yes, there’s teeth flying and charred corpses, but it never looks over the top.
These 2 issues mark the halfway mark, but I’m already sold and I’m glad I let my curiosity get the better of me. Key of Z #1 and 2 are out now, and #3 will be released on December 28.