Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Review: Zombie Outlaw #1!

So we were generously sent (all the way to Australia) a review copy of new self-published comic Zombie Outlaw #1, written by Brian J. Apodaca, with art by B. Paul Jordan.

What's it all about and how does it stack up? Join me after the jump and we'll find out!

So What's It All About?
More modern day romance, than period horror story (although it switches between both), Zombie Outlaw is the story of jocular nerd Matt, attendee of Irvine State University, and currently obsessed with busty lab partner K.T. Delaney (who is also admired by stereotypical meathead jock, Tad). Matt enlists the help of the eerily similar-looking and over-enthusiastic Will, but Will has an obsession of his own. The subterranean library vaults apparently house a legendary zombie cowboy hat (once belonging to the Zombie Outlaw) and ill-advised journey to claim it has disastrous results.

This is very much a first issue - it's a quick read and it's main purpose is to set up the backstory and eventual introduction of the titular character. It has a loose, humourous feel, kind of like an eighties college movie. Like something starring a young and stoned Val Kilmer or Robert Downey Junior.

What Works?
I think the main triumph of this book is that it exists at all. A lot of people talk about making comics, but it takes a lot of courage and commitment to actually collaborate with another person, complete the book and get it out there. These guys also have an aggressive (but very affable) approach to marketing where they are getting the book out there and making their presence known, which really has to be commended. I respect the passion that is being poured onto each page. 

A first issue of a self-published book is a major achievement, and this is a slickly produced full colour book which serves as a strong introduction to their world. If they embrace this opportunity then they can only move upward as they go forward - as there is a lot of potential to be had as they allow both their characters and stories to grow. The Zombie Outlaw himself is a fun concept and, once fully revealed, he has an interesting and unique design. He's the real star here, and it would be good to learn more about him and what makes him tick. He's going to need to be more than a relentless killing to machine to make the book intriguing and I'm interested to see where they eventually place him.

The art is distinct and highly stylised (everybody has long pencil-thin necks and gigantic Popeye forearms... even object-of-desire K.T.) and I'm not entirely sure I find every choice aesthetically appealing in all instances, but I think it does work well for the monster characters. It certainly has a lot of energy and the over-the-top gestures and expressions add to the humour and sell the emotions. There's definitely an audience for this work, and I have no doubt in my mind that Brian and B. Paul have already built a fan-base and that it's that support that has driven them to do this.

What Didn't Work So Well?
Although we didn't get to know her very well, I think the portrayal of female lead K.T. is a real misfire. Firstly she has no discernible personality, and secondly -despite studying in a library - she is drawn emphasising her large breasts and protruding nipples. Now don't get me wrong - I adore nipples. I love nipples so much I wish we all had six of them, but it's inappropriate in the context that the story creates. If she was in a strip club, sure. In the bedroom in lingerie? I'd believe it? Studying in the library? Unnecessary. 

Look, I get it, because I used to only draw women like that too, from the age of about 16 - 22, but you grow out of it. It says far more about you as creators, than it does about the character. But worst of all it really limits the character and makes her a missed opportunity. She can be sexy and desirable, sure, but should also be unique and interesting. Make her a character that we, as readers, care about too. Because no matter how you thrust her tits out it's not titillating to us - it's just awkward - especially when rendered with those giant Popeye arms. (Disregard if you're a Popeye fetishist). Even the female librarian is all tits in a crop-top and used as an object. Comics have enough detractors. We all need to work harder than this.

Let's go back to basics. Shit, look at the work of someone like Joss Whedon (especially if you're going for supernatural humour). He writes sexy, unique women who aren't all tits. And the best part? Women like his characters too! I KNOW RIGHT! ACTUAL WOMEN! And women even like him! See where I'm going? I empathise with you guys because this took me a long time to learn. (And I say that with straight face even though I have a Daily Big Breast calendar here on my desk).

And one more thing... What happened to the cover? This is how you're selling the book to us, and you're selling yourselves short with a slightly pixelated (low res?) version of the zombie's head! The interior art is far better than this, and the pin-up art you have on the inside back cover is the strongest in the entire book in my (loud and possibly unwanted at this stage) opinion. It would have made a stunning cover! I'm going to give you a pass though, friends, because the following preview art for the cover of issue 2 is excellent, so I'm going to mark it up to an anomaly caused by getting the book out on time...

In Conclusion
Congratulations! Seriously, good job for getting this out there and thank you for sharing it with us. I really do wish you every success and sincerely hope that if you had the balls to complete the first book, publish it, and promote it, that you're going to have no hesitation in getting even better future books out there and kicking our asses. Do it!

For more information check out the official Zombie Outlaw site, and you can purchase the book for yourself and support Brian and B. Paul at Comixpress.

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