iZombie #11

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

With iZombie on the verge of wrapping up its first year (and with its first collection due this month), it seemed like a good at time as any to check back in with Chris Roberson and Michael Allred’s zombie series. Of course, it’s not really a zombie series. In fact, Roberson and Allred seem to be delighted in taking everyone’s expectations for iZombie and then throwing them out the window. Do I approve? Of course.

Right from the start, iZombie seemed to have a simple enough premise; a zombie girl named Gwen can keep her own brain intact if she eats the brain of a deceased person once a month, but in doing so will temporarily gain the dead person’s memories. Her best friends just happen to be a ghost and a were-terrier, and the three are in some ways their own little Being Human trio.

Except, as it turns out, iZombie is much more than that. The book instead quickly expanded its cast to all sorts of supernatural beings (mummies, vampires, the Bride of Frankenstein) and while Gwen still has her own little memory problem to deal with, it’s hardly the only (or even main) thread moving through the comic. Rather, as this issue illustrates, iZombie is a rambling, never-ending soap opera of the supernatural, and I say this in a positive manner.

iZombie #11 marks the end of the second storyline ("uVampire"), or at least that’s what it claims. Like the previous storyline, though, nothing is really finalized or wrapped up in any way, shape, or form. Rather, both storylines seem to "end" only because there’s a one-off focus issue around the corner. The first time it felt slightly abrupt; this time, knowing that it’s how Roberson is writing the book, I’m feeling rather good about it. Like real life, things don’t just magically wrap up overnight, and so that’s how iZombie rolls. Gwen’s love life is still problematic, Galatea’s plan looks extremely dangerous for the entire universe, the vampires and the monster hunters are both still running around town, and that’s not even all of the main characters accounted for. We’re getting a mixture of human drama (or should that be un-human drama?), mystery, and eldritch horror, but it works. I like that Gwen’s recently acquired batch of memories hasn’t brought her to some sort of great turning point, but instead is giving her new fodder to wrestle with. She’s not able to magically make a difference or solve family issues that were dangling over her head. And yes, sometimes when we get that super-important phone call we end up too wrapped up in our own affairs to notice. iZombie may star a multitude of "monsters" but it’s a remarkably human book.

It helps, of course, that Allred is the artist for iZombie. He’s one of those artists who can draw the fantastic and the mundane side-by-side and the two mesh together perfectly. So one minute we’re getting Gwen trudging through a lovingly-drawn suburbia, the next minute it’s a close personal friend of Cthulhu trying to rip through the fabric of the universe and devour us all. Characters have beautiful expressions, from depressed to gleeful, and the way he draws their body language is part of the reason why I’ve been a fan of his ever since first picking up Madman #1 from Tundra Publishing. And of course, one can’t forget about Laura Allred’s colors, which know when to pop off of the page and when to go for a more muted, subtle approach. Something as simple as the deep reds and purples on Gwen as she walks through the brightly-colored neighborhood works so well; it makes Gwen not only stand out on the page, but in her setting as well. She doesn’t fit with her surroundings, an extra visual shorthand for the overall story.

Vertigo’s had several top-notch books launch over the past two years (The Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, and American Vampire all leap to mind) and iZombie also belongs in that category. Between Roberson and Allred, this is a book that both reads entertainingly and also looks great. So sure, the official story breaks are somewhat arbitrary. But you know what? It’s part of the book’s charm. I’d love to see this series keep rambling along its merry way forever.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

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