Zombies vs. Robots #1


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Zombies vs. Robots #1


  • Words: Chris Ryall
  • Art: Ashley Wood
  • Inks: Ashley Wood
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: Ghost in the Machines
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Nov 29, 2006

Titles and concepts don’t get more consummate than this – ZvR is a superb idea that can’t help but not live up to the potential of its name, and indeed it does not.

The trouble begins when one realizes that Zombies vs. Robots is a mere two-issue mini; how could the creators possibly have packed all the mind-numbing possibilities of friggin’ zombies battling friggin’ robots into the pages of only two, regular-sized comic book issues? Well, they can’t, and therein lay the rub of this particular soliloquy. First off, the concept – while kitschy and cool in such a way that may be considered overdone and trite these days (just add ninja, pirates, zombies, robots, dinosaurs, or snakes to any concept and it becomes a better concept…right?), it’s also a pairing that will evoke a pre-imagined, perfect version of itself into the minds of any reader that so much as takes note of the title. Against such natural and unavoidable, preconceived responses alone, the book will undoubtedly suffer in initial reader repose. But the question will still be asked (by those who can put aside their own druthers) – is the book as it is and not as what I wish it to be, any good?

It’s good; yes, it is good – decent, one might say – but it is no better than this, and as such, it is likely to be disappointing to the legions of undead-heads the world over. The art by Ashley Wood is everything one expects from the superstar – sparse, sketchy, wild, and atmospheric to the extreme. Wood isn’t the best choice, I think, for what should have been an action book, as his actual sequential storytelling ability is middling at best, but for the tale Ryall gives, Wood emphatically delivers.

The story by Chris Ryall scores points for its inventiveness, yet what it invents seems largely beside the zombies-vs.-robots premise. The issue opens with a brief but promising two-page throw-down between a so-called warbot and a batch of slow-marauding zombies. Afterwards, we are introduced to the myriad forms of android life that were left behind by once-reigning humanity (who are now all zombified, save for a single human infant who sits in the robots’ charge, and whom the robots plan to one day clone and repopulate the planet with). Indeed one of the more entertaining portions of the book is a single panel breakdown of the numerous less-than-AI machines, their personalities, their programming, and their limitations. A history of the world is given, and Ryall again gets kudos for having taken the time to flesh out such a back-story as well as such a widespread hierarchy of machine life. Unfortunately, even though Paul Jenkins penned the cult-classic Construct over a decade ago and showed the way, Ryall has neither the space nor the inclination to turn any of his robotic protagonists into actual characters, but instead allows them to remain caricatures only, which wouldn’t be so bad if the meat of the series was focused on only action.

Unfortunately, what readers get is largely what an editor might pore over inside the pages of a series pitch – a world history, a series of character breakdowns, and a sparse summation of plot. Literally, the history is given via a broadcast recap, and the robots are presented via a one-panel line-up accompanied by caption boxes. Beyond these things? There’s the one two-page brawl I mentioned, and then an additional, brief scuffle at the end, which presents a plot twist that’ll be difficult to swallow for even the most perpetually belief-suspended amongst us. What’s worse – without much having yet transpired between the zombies and the robots, the war seems more or less over by the end of the first issue, leaving only what will probably be an unexpected, but not terribly thrilling, finish.

SPOILERS THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY: The twist at the end is that the zombie blood, when analyzed by a robot, becomes a computer virus that spreads throughout the entirety of the robot nation. Ryall covers the fact that the robots are all connected wirelessly, but the concept that machines that have not achieved any form of actual intelligence, and that have already scanned and studied every other infectious virus known to man, would then somehow be affected in such a way by an analysis of tainted zombie blood…well, since zombie blood is more-or-less fictional, there’s no actual scientific fact that this is disqualifying, but it still pushes the boundaries of general sense. Plus, the twist generally means that the machines are now zombified, and the human infant, too (it swallows a drop of the tainted blood).

Issue #1 ends with a caption that reads: "Next: The End," and indeed it would have to be, of the series and of the world inside the series as well. Basically, there’s not a lot here to really get into. There are no actual characters, nor a great deal of action, not even much innovation involving the series’ eponymous concept. It’s not a terribly written sci-fi short, though it does lack any storytelling complexity (it’s merely a quick one-two idea spread across a few pages and then that, as they say, is that). For a book to sport a title as provocative, fun, and straight-forward as Zombies vs. Robots, it’s a big ol’ bummer that the contents don’t earn any of those aforementioned adjectives. It’s a decent sci-fi riff that includes zombies, but for anyone looking for a straight-up, big fat fight between zombies and robots, they’d be better off writing that ethereal version of the book inside their own heads.

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