In my cold dead hands, I have a rather eye-catching offering from Robot Zombie Comics, the first issue of Rented To The Dead.
The cover is a moment of gory wonder involving a skull and an increasingly redundant, yet utterly appropriate media format. Still, much more entertaining than using them as scarecrows.
Any book that is set in Maidstone, Kent is likely to get an initial thumbs up from yours truly; however it’s the clear aim of storytellers Phil Buckenham and Simon Cope is to make this book contemporary in ways far more pertinent than mere geography.
The reader is dropped into the middle of substantial, bloody rioting which the government has labelled “mindless violence, perpetrated by thugs and hooligans.” Well, that sounds like what we did last summer, or what?
The initial twist in the tale is that this bout of mass brutality was not initiated by the criminal fraternity, nor misspent youth nor the bored and jaded, chattering clases; it was zombies!
Following the introductory pages of mayhem and disorder, the reader is transported to the soothing, calm haven that is the local video rental store. The core characters, employees, are charmingly introduced amidst waves of laconic banter. Main protagonist Steve is getting increasingly irritated up by a customer of questionable dress sense, whilst two of his colleagues, Adam and Dave, look on and bicker.
Such is life in a retail outlet, yet with each panel we’re gradually informed as to what troubles them and what motivates them in equal measure. For instance, Adam spends time training in the Territorial Army and last week, he learned how to drive a tank! Can’t help but wonder if this newly acquired skill will come in handy, at some point.
As the banter continues, enter stage left Steve’s boss Barry and his recent ex-girlfriend, Sara. The verbal jousting is well underway, as the reader is treated to clues in newspaper headlines and television coverage, that major events are transpiring, to which this happy band are currently oblivious.
Buckenham’s art is drafted in bold, weighty lines and is pretty much in your face, which is fitting for such matters as contained within these pages. It adds a sprightly step to proceedings, especially in those zombie, flesh-rending moments. Although, equally rewarding is the attention to detail in terms of character expression that effortlessly conveys a plethora of reactions, emotions and instincts. Such goodies as a single panel of a guy dribbling in his sleep are littered throughout.
In the latter section, as the story is ramped up a level or three in terms of zombie interaction, we are witnesses to the arrival of three passerby, sports fans from the good ‘ole U.S. of A. One is not given too much time in which to evaluate this development as Steve walks into the cliffhanger.
Transplanting the themes of urban decay and general civil dissatisfaction into a Zombie onslaught, encompassing London and the south-east? What’s not to like? Clearly many folk would agree, as this title is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign conducted in June this year.
By all means, make your way over here for your copy of Rented to the Dead #1.