What to Do When there Are Zombies Calling

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Zombies are everywhere these days but the original graphic novel Zombies Calling takes a decidedly different tack.

Writer Faith Erin Hicks is relatively new to the published comics field. For such an early outing, however, she makes a big splash with a story about coming to grips with life, learning what it takes to be strong, discovering your true talents…. Oh, and some living dead as well.

Joss has three obsessions: England, zombie movies, and her mounting student loan debt. Her frequent rants on these subjects are a source of amusement to her friends and roommates – the slightly dim Robyn and they goth-y Sonnet. Her love of zombie horror movies has even led her to compile a list of "rules" for surviving a zombie attack. The one thing any of them ever expected was to have to put Joss’s rules to use in real life.

It is exams week for the university, however, and when Joss starts claiming to have seen zombies on campus Robyn and Sonnet immediately think she has cracked under the pressure. They soon learn that Joss is right – zombies are overrunning the campus! Suddenly exams are the least of their worries. Will Joss’s rules hold true and save them all or will they become victims of the undead?

Both zombie movies and zombie comic books have been riding a wave of popularity in recent years but with Zombies Calling Hicks takes all the clichés and turns them on their collective ears. Not only are Zombie movies hoisted by their own petard (albeit with a certain amount of respect), Hicks manages to throw in some sly, social satire along the way involving pop culture and the University experience. There is also quite a bit of gentle heart as Joss learns a lot about what is truly frightening as well as discovering her inner mettle as she faces down the shuffling evil.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud lines and scenes scattered throughout the book but Hicks still keeps a sense of lingering menace around. This delicate balance is not as easy to achieve as some might think and yet here it appears effortless and is a tribute to Hick’s skill.

Even the digest size of the book works in its favor. Hicks handles all the art as well as the writing duties and she wisely keeps most of her scenes small. There is little wide-screen action and so, little use for big, splash panels. As such, the compact, pocket size of the book makes it very read-on-the-go friendly. Make no mistake, though, the lack of size does not mean lack of detail. Hick’s art is faintly Manga influenced and yet also puts one in mind a little of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work on Scott Pilgrim. If there is any fault to this edition it is that it might benefit from a higher quality paper. As it stands, the paper used is nicely thick but has the texture and feel of cheap newsprint.

Zombies Calling takes a loving and laughing look at zombie movies and one young person’s first steps into a much larger life. Like all good lessons, Hicks makes her point by telling an excellent story with humor, grace and heart. A spoonful of sugar may help the medicine go down but a spork in hand is better for fighting zombies.

Zombies Calling is available from SLG Publishing priced $9.95 (ISBN 1593620799)

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