Dead Life #1
Writer: Jean-Charles Gaudin
Artist: Joan Urgell
Translator: Marc Bourbon-Crook
Publisher: Titan’s Statix Press
Review by Michael Farris, Jr.
Dead Life #1 starts out with a typical marital spat and ends in a bloodbath. Kate and Curtis are heading to Curtis’s parent’s house to pick up their son Stephen, but before they can leave, Curtis’s dad discovers an ancient chalice he had in the attic is missing. He goes berserk and drags Stephen to the neighbors’ house where Stephen and the neighbor girl had the cup as a prop in their make-believe adventures. When they reach the house, they are greeted with a grisly scene, and, pretty soon, the dead bodies they find rise up and start biting.
Stephen is bit by the zombified version of his friend, and the family flees to get to the nearest hospital. An overturned vehicle in the middle of the road stalls their progress, and soon, the losses begin to pile up.
This comic comes to us from France by way of Statix Press, Titan Comic’s publisher that brings foreign comics to an English-speaking market. It is billed as “The Walking Dead meets Supernatural,” and I would have to say that’s a pretty accurate description.
One difficulty I can see with writing a zombie story is learning how to differentiate your story from the myriad of other zombie stories out there. Immediately, this one presents that difference with a sort of cursed chalice that creates the zombie outbreak. Where did it come from? How did Curtis’s dad get hold of it? How did he know what it did? Lots of intriguing questions right away that don’t get answered by the end of this double-sized issue. On top of all the mystery, it also appears that the zombies are capable of learning and quickly adapting to their situation, which you don’t see too often.
In order to increase the intensity of a horror comic, it’s always a good idea to center the story around a family. The dysfunction between husband and wife right at the beginning really grounds the story in the real world, and the scene where grandpa discovers that Stephen took the chalice is one of the most intense and hard to read scenes I’ve encountered in a comic.
The artwork is decent, but there are a few hiccups. Perhaps the most frustrating part is the speech balloon placement; a lot of times, the balloons aren’t placed near the speaker, so you end up depending solely on your ability to determine who is saying what. There were also a few pages where the panel layout makes it a little difficult to read the story in the correct order.
Verdict: Buy it.
If you are a fan of zombie stories and need a change of pace from The Walking Dead, or if you want to feel all proud of yourself the way people who study abroad feel (“Oh, haven’t you heard of this FRENCH zombie comic??”), then Dead Life is for you. There is an intensity and drama that I would say is hard to find even in Kirkman’s magnum opus.