Overview

Awakening #1-4

Review

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Awakening #1-4

Credits

  • Words: Nick Tapalansky
  • Art: Alex Eckman-Lawn
  • Inks: Alex Eckman-Lawn
  • Colors: Alex Eckman-Lawn
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Price: $3.99 each
  • Release Date: Mar 19, 2008

It’s easy to think we’ve seen it all when it comes to zombies, especially these days, the thus-far height of the sub-genre in all recorded history.

Movies, novels, webcomics, online animation, cartoons, manga, anime, television shows, magazines, even music albums that are entirely devoted to the subject, each piece and performance presenting its own take on this now grown-into-the-mainstream classic.  Incredibly fast zombies, intensely slow zombies, science based and magic-based, religious overtones or sheer nihilism, true-blue horror or blended with superhero and/or pulp adventure elements— we’ve seen it all.  We have.  So what does Awakening, a new 10-issue maxi-series from Archaia Studios Press have to offer us that we haven’t slogged through before via every respective medium available?

In a word: composure.  There’s plenty within Awakening to connect it to the classics, pieces such as evil corporations and possible experimentations gone wrong, detectives and shambling flesh-eating figures.  Yet writer Nick Tapalansky uses these tropes to blindside readers with a story within the story; he offers comfortable clichés in order to lure the average zombie-horror fan into an epic that isn’t going to play by the rules.  Not entirely.

Beginning with issue #1, right from the offset, the story suits itself to the stylings of artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, whose highly fine art strokes demand a certain slowness, sparsely dialogued pages and an execution that depends on moments that exist on their own four-framed merits, panel by panel, rather than a never-ending series of celluloid-like progressions.  That might make you think of the Golden Age, every panel pronouncing an event before moving on to the next, and in a way, that is what Awakening tends to do, though not with the boisterousness of a Kirby or a Lee, but rather, with the atmospheric power of a Sienkiewicz or a Templesmith.

This isn’t a gore fest, or a schlock parade or action adventure.  Awakening is the closest thing to a real-world zombie urban crime drama as anyone’s likely to see, and even better, it still retains a certain horror-epic slant, at least as revealed in the latest issue #4.  Tapalansky writes an oddly-paced but very effective narrative, intertwining numerous protagonists as they confront the possibility of actual zombies and the many, many horrors such things entail.  Tapalansky has a knack for knowing when to speed things up and when he’s allowed to slow back down, when to toss out an unforeseen element and when to play it closer to what’s expected.  In the end, four issues out of ten come and gone, Awakening looks to be a very unpredictable but meticulously crafted new angle on the same-old everyday zombie.

And then there’s Eckman-Lawn, the artist, he of the exquisite composition and dense, multilayered technique.  Imagine an entire art gallery, a nighttime nightmare show telling an epic tale of zombie apocalypse as you walk through its winding halls, and that, in a nutshell, is what you get reading Awakening under Eckman-Lawn’s direction.  His style is lush, though appropriately eerie and somber, often simply plain ol’ vanilla mesmerizing when he whips out a splash page or moment of intensity, as his art always matches the intent of the story event at hand.  Awakening becomes alive and unforgettable via his vision, and matched with Tapalansky’s matchless concept, this maxi-series in one for the books, a zombie story unlike any other.

Not everyone will gush after sampling this oddity of a horror comic, it’s true, though I suspect that most will.  Some may find it too quiet, too tediously dramatic and mellow and trudging in its tempo, but for anyone who sincerely wants to find the next horror concept comic that should be mirrored by writers and artists everywhere for years after its done, aping such an original thing until it's no longer anything of the sort, then Awakening will prove a unique experience, and an immensely satisfying one at that.

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For more information and previews go to http://www.aspcomics.com/awakening.php

Issues #1-3 are available now, Issue #4 is to be released sometime in March or April 2008.

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