Pop Culture Gadabout
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
      ( 9/30/2009 07:37:00 AM ) Bill S.  

TELLING YOU ALL THE ZOMBIE TROOF: Zombies as metaphor: we've seen it before, and we'll see it again -- but that doesn't mean it still can be done in surprising ways. In Shane White's orange-hued graphic novel, Things Undone (NBM/ComicsLit), artist Rick Watt undergoes the process of zombification as his fresh life in the Pacific Northwest just begins. Having moved across country to an unsatisfying job, followed by a girlfriend who probably should have stayed back in the Midwest, our hero starts to feel himself physically deteriorating. A shaving cut turns into a large gash; a bonk on the head pops out one of his eyes (which he promptly washes off and reinserts into its socket), a dog chomps off his foot (which he reattaches with duct tape) and so on.

It is real or commercial artist Rick's overactive imagination at work? When a demon figure pops out of a computer monitor to smash our hero's head against the keyboard -- and nobody else notices -- we can probably assume the latter, but maybe not. For Rick, his physical degeneration represents his unwillingness/inability to stand up and say nay to his unsatisfying lot in life. The only way he can turn things around is to do something extreme.

Zombie un-life as an existential crisis, in other words.

White's work has more of an indy comics feel than it does a Romero-esque series like The Walking Dead (though Dead scribe Robert Kirkman shows up with an intro to the book) with its twenty-something creative type wallowing in his own ineffectualness until he finally reaches that breaking point. S'all very angsty, though White keeps things from being too oppressive by telling his story in a agreeable big-headed cartoony style. Doesn't fully keep his hero's core whininess from becoming irritating, however.

I did like the moment when our hero bites the head off a yippy little shit dog. If the cartoonist had given us a few more such moments, becoming a zombie wouldn't have looked like such a bad deal, after all -- which I guess would've undercut his point.


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

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