Pop Culture Gadabout
Sunday, February 26, 2006
      ( 2/26/2006 07:34:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"SUVIVORS" – Boom! Studios publisher Ross Richie appears to be happily stepping up the production schedule for his still-new line of genre comics, with two more releases popping up in the past two weeks – and more power to him. This past week saw the concluding half of Zombie Tales: Death Valley, the grisly but lighthearted teen survival tale. All the expected notes are hit – friends and family show up as flesh-eating zombies, our hearty band of high school students is whittled down – though I didn't buy writers Cosby & Stokes' finale. If zombification is supposed the results of solar flare-ups, then why are the results only limited to the Los Angeles area? Just coz it's known as Sunny California, doesn't mean it's that much closer to the sun (93-million-miles away, he remembers from an old teevee commercial) than the rest of us.

Still, the second issue remains as fun as the first. Liked that our company, desperate to find a new place to hold up, select (instead of a mall) a version of the Playboy Mansion – if you're gonna ride out an Apocalypse, why not do it in the lap of bourgeois luxury, right?

This week gives us the debut issue of War of the Worlds: Second Wave, which, thankfully, owes little to the recent Spielberg movie or to Marvel's Killraven series (the first attempt at wringing a series out of H.G. Wells' sturdy public domain property). As crafted by writer Michael Alan Nelson and artist Chee, the tale tells the story of a suburbanite named Miles who loses his wife during the first onslaught of a Martian invasion. Unlike the over-muscled quasi-barbarians of the 70's era Marvel series – or the sturdy dock worker of the recent film – Miles is hardly your survivalist material: he doesn’t even know the name of a Phillips screwdriver. Yet he's our window into the story: guilt-ridden because he was unable to stop the unstoppable, desperate to redeem himself. You just know he's gonna do something stupid in his need to be a hero.

The first issue is primarily devoted to setting up the series' second wave of invading aliens; though the first attempt was beaten back much as it was in Wells' original novel, we can probably assume that the Martian invaders have since developed a means of immunizing themselves from the humble germs that bested 'em. The style established is considerably grimmer than Death Valley: no wisecracking or comic teen angst, must large-scale death 'n' destruction. Series artist Chee is much less cartoonly than Valley's Rhoald Marcellus, though in a couple of panels he gives his soldier figures a hint of kids playing dress-up. Guy knows his way around a rubble-strewn landscape, though.

First issue of War contains a blurb by Mark Waid comparing the series to Robert Kirkman's zombie world survival series, The Walking Dead, and I'm sure that Boom! is hoping that this series will generate the same degree of fan-positive buzz. Whether it does remains to be seen, of course, but I suspect that it'll be rough going. Where modern zombie stories possess the advantage of arising from some vague hyper-natural source, invasion tales provide a much more clear-cut antagonist that, over time, the reader expects will eventually be bested. Keep things going too long without providing a resolution, and many readers will give up on the series. Perhaps writer Nelson has a fresh batch of deadly viruses gestating in a test tube somewhere? If so, I hope he recognizes when it's time to finally pull 'em out . . .
# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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