Zombies Calling Review

Zombies CallingI have a new habit these days. Ever since I arrived home from San Diego Comic-Con in July I have briefly stared at the pile of comics I bought there with curiosity, excitement and mild disdain at not organising them yet (especially as said pile is sitting next to my bookshelf crammed full of unread stuff from last year’s SDCC). However since I’ve been getting the train to work I now have an hour each day to get some good reading in and watch the pile slowly diminish, or at least, be rearranged.

So, each night I grab a random book and throw it in my bag for the next morning’s reading, and that’s how I came to read, and enjoy, Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks and Slave Labor Graphics. Man, that was an unnecessarily long intro.

Zombies Calling is a 112 page black and white digest that was created in 2007. Hicks’ blog details her submission process that got it noticed. Her next project is Brain Camp about “a creepy summer camp and how there may be monsters in the forest, and it’s all a metaphor for how puberty is scary as hell.” Cool.

So, ZC is about Joss and her two room-mates at a Canadian university. Joss is fixated on England, and more importantly zombie moves. She knows the rules of said films, (think of the rules for horror moves as stated in Scream) and thankfully, her skills must be put to the test when zombies invade her campus, or rather students are transformed into the shuffling undead.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much and only picked it up at the Con as it was cheap, but I was pleasantly surprised. After the first few pages I thought it may just veer dangerously close to the kind of playful tale we’ve seen before in which all the characters are witty and reference pop culture to show the readers/audience how they’re just like them. Hicks is wise and creative enough to not let that happen though. By sticking to only 3 main characters and giving the zombies an unusual origin that doesn’t require lengthy exposition, she can focus on showing just enough tension, tenderness and humour that could comfortably exist in an average episode of Buffy.

Besides Joss, there’s so-called ladies’ man Robyn and Sonnet, who is more serious and goth. There’s nods to Shaun of the Dead and the non-zombieness of 28 Days Later, and lots of running, hiding and zombie hurting.

It’s the combination of action, character development and touching scenes, such as the discussions of virginity, and death, all in just over 100 pages that make this an entertaining read. It’s also great to look at. Hicks does wonders simply with the page layouts and knows how to use space, and silence to great effect. It’s just a pleasure to look at and not like all the manga-lite artwork currently flooding the shelves. She knows how to render detailed backgrounds, and make the characters emote, and even a nerd like me can appreciate the hip fashion choices.

Also included are a few pages of character sketches and preliminary cover designs. Zombies Calling is a refreshing, done-in-one read that you wouldn’t be ashamed to pass onto your curious friends.

Zombies Calling p6

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