iZombie #1

Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Michael Allred
32 pages, color
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics

Over the past decade, Chris Roberson’s come seemingly out of nowhere to carve himself a career in comics, books, and publishing. Originally part of the Clockwork Storybook collective of writers (which included Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges), he’s gone on to have novels and short stories published, as well as start his own MonkeyBrain Books. He’s also started to crack comics, his first major project the Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love mini-series, and now his first ongoing series iZombie. And while iZombie #1 reminds me a bit of some other creations out there, on the whole I’m pleased to see that Roberson’s rising up through the ranks in no small part because he’s a strong writer.

iZombie isn’t the first story out there to mix groups of supernatural characters into a single narrative, after all. What makes Roberson’s first issue stand out is the little tweaks behind the basic ideas, and the way that the dialogue flows as you read the issue. So while at first you might find yourself nodding at the idea of a zombie gravedigger and a ghost living together in an old crypt to be a pretty basic idea, Roberson quickly starts mixing it up. I love that instead of a werewolf, Roberson has inserted a wereterrier into the group of characters. And as for the whole idea of zombies eating brains, well, Roberson has his own particular take on that old chestnut as well. The differences set it apart and let you start to enjoy the comic’s strengths in their own right.

As the lead of the book, Gwen (our resident zombie) is a slightly sardonic if interesting character. Her transformation to zombie having happened in the past, while she’s clearly still not thrilled with her status in unlife, she’s gotten used to her day to day routines and plans. She might slightly mock her friends Ellie (a ghost) and Spot (the wereterrier) but at the same time, she clearly knows enough about them and their foibles that on some level she enjoys being around them. Roberson’s not afraid to show some of Gwen’s weaknesses as well; trying to avoid people who knew her when she was still alive makes perfect sense, after all, and her love of Dixie Mason, Action Girl dolls is a fun and cute touch. There’s a lot of set-up with Gwen, like her low ego when it comes to her paintings, and Roberson seems to be promising a payoff down the line.

Roberson also has a gimmick to keep iZombie from being just a simple "day in the life of a monster" series, with the hook of how eating a brain affects Gwen. It’s a smart idea, and it pushes Gwen out into the rest of the world, something one gets the distinct impression she’d otherwise avoid entirely. While I think a slice-of-unlife series would work just fine as is, adding this extra plot wrinkle gives Roberson additional plot possibilities. While it’s something that can drive specific storylines, at the same time it isn’t absolutely necessary for it to appear the whole way through the series.

Michael Allred continues to be one of my art superstars. When you buy a comic drawn by Allred, you know exactly what you’re going to get; smooth, clean lines, great understanding of the human form and anatomy, and expressive faces. Something as simple as Gwen and the other gravediggers hanging out before a job is drawn with care. No one’s in the exact same pose, even while they’re all in general states of readiness. As Gwen watches the funeral, you can see a wistfulness in her eyes, the perfect match to Roberson’s caption on how her old life was over and she had to start a new one. Allred never has to go for over the top layouts or attention-grabbing techniques to pull the reader in; he manages it just fine on his own.

iZombie #1 is a good start to the series, and a $1 introductory price tag is an added bonus. I find myself wishing the title of the series hadn’t changed since first being announced (going from I, Zombie to iZombie) but when that’s the biggest complaint I could find, that’s not a big deal at all. iZombie is definitely worth taking a look at for yourself. I think you’ll agree it’s worth coming back for the next installment.

2 comments to iZombie #1