(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
WRITTEN BY: Fred Van Lente
ARTWORK BY: Max Dunbar
COLOR ARTWORK BY: Aikau Olivia
LETTERING BY: Simon Bowland
Humor in comics are making a big splash, whether it be an indie or major publisher, and I think it’s a great thing. The comic world as a whole suffers when creators and publishers take their entire line of books too seriously, and for a long time this was the case. Now, however, we have more titles like “Hawkeye”, “Quantum & Woody”, and “Larfleeze” where there is more of a focus on the fun nature of comics. So, I am more than ecstatic to find books like “The Mocking Dead” on the shelves - comedy and silly humor are here in a big way and, from the look of sales figures for a lot of these titles, it’s not going away anytime soon.
The premise is perfect. In a memo seemingly from the 80′s US Government it is explained that due to the fact that different form of entertainment - in this case the “Taxi Driver” obsessed would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan and Reagan’s plan for a ‘Star Wars’ defense system - there should be a governmental body tasked with creating contingency plans for things found in the media, no matter how fantastical. They code named the project “TINSELTOWN”, and set it into action. The idea that fiction - even the most ‘out there’ versions - can carry over into reality to the point that such a thing is needed is a very curious one. One that kept me reading, even if just to see it play out. Add in a quickly growing zombie apocalypse, and our dorky character takes the forefront of the fight, having been the one to create Contingency Plan Z, or how to officially deal with a zombie infestation.
Our main character Aaron Bunch is a big guy with a big sense of humor. He’s a bit of a slacker (maybe more than a bit) when we find him, having been let go from “TINSELTOWN” a while back. He runs a torrent site called “Pop Pirate”, and spends his days screwing around and generally wasting time. It’s the call from former friend and ex-TINSELTOWN comrade Vanessa Malik that wakes him from his ‘sleep mode’ - zombies are real, they’re on the move, and they need Bunch to help them deal with it and initialize Plan Z. This is where the story really starts, and we go from his familiar setting to a helicopter taking them to the Pentagon, where they are to have a briefing about the “Zeds” (as they call the zombies).
The relationship between the two ex-friends Bunch and Malik become the real core of the story, and we get some playful scenes and a great flashback to establish that they had once been close, which helps to cement this idea. Their interplay between them goes slightly against their non-friend status, and hints at a deeper friendship that I hope cracks the surface in future issues. They are written smart and uniquely from each other - the perfect offset for a strong companionship, much like Hitchcock when he first had two opposing characters hand-cuffed and forced to work as one. It’s a classic set-up, but done with creativity and depth that goes past the fun and silly nature of the book.
What really stood out for me was a simple idea - how awesome would it be if one of us were able to use our random knowledge - the pop culture, B-Movie, comic book facts and stories few outside our realm appreciate - to good use, allowing us to use that information and viewpoint to possibly save the world. This is the classic hero, the guy brought into a situation beyond his control yet still handed the reigns - again reminding one of Hitchcock’s films and his “everyman” approach. These may seem like lofty comparisons, but the heart of this title lies within those ideas. Where I was lead to find a satire on zombie fandom I found a believable hero acting believably in an unbelievable scenario. That and Bunch’s trademark smarm and ego make this a character who is both proud and frail.
The rest of the story up to the cliffhanger ending of Issue #2 carries itself on this idea, and through some fun story devices we learn more and more about an old “Z-Grade” (pun intended?) film, “The Mocking Dead”, which just so happens to open with shots mocking ‘Night of the Living Dead’. This comic is one big zombie reference linked to another, to another, and the horror and zombie fan in me enjoyed picking through the pieces of this book to find any easter eggs I could. The psuedo film “The Mocking Dead” is shown in small batches of ‘scenes’, complete with an opening ripped right from ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (title style and all), and in panels that read more like frames from the film. This film becomes the Holy Grail, as it seems to hold some type of answer for Bunch but is impossible to find a copy of. Where this leads him and Malik we have yet to really see, but I can tell you it’s going to be fun as hell.
“The Mocking Dead” is a well written, awesomely drawn comic and, from the first two issues anyway, is a fun and interesting read. At first it might come off a bit ‘geek hipster’, but before you can even finish that thought you’re a single page in and hooked for the rest. With zombies being so important to somewhat-recent pop culture and showing up in more and more places, it’s easy to take a glance at this comic and figure it’s a cash-in on not only the zombie frenzy, but also the fandom and cult-like fans that have made it such a phenomenon. This is thankfully not the case and, in a weird twist I didn’t expect it’s that exact world the comic is set in - the world of an over-obsessed, overly stereotyped ‘geek’/'dork’, who is our main character and - as it seems - our hero, as well.
So, is the world of “The Mocking Dead” doomed to a dead existence? Maybe. Does Bunch think he has a good lead on the answer to the problem? Maybe. The only thing I can tell you for sure is that I’ll be reading Issue #3 as soon as it hits. Think I’m seeing more in this than there is? Read it, see what you think, and maybe we can meet for coffee later and talk it over (oooh, stole a joke from the comic!).
“The Mocking Dead” #2 is out October 2nd from Dynamite Entertainment.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27