Sick of zombies? This is different. Sort of. There’s no apocalypse in Vertigo’s iZombie series. Life is very much like our own day-to-day reality – no hordes of undead shuffling the streets, no small groups of human survivors. Everything’s pretty much normal, except for a girl named Gwen. See, Gwen’s dead. Aside from living in a graveyard and the fact that she eats brains once a month, Gwen passes as a contributing member of society. It’s an inversion of the typical zombie story. The world’s not overrun by decaying corpses. There’s just Gwen and the many others like her, few of whom are similarly zombies.
From the start of this first iZombie collection, Gwen’s almost always flanked by one of her two friends – a ghost and were-terrier. The ghost’s a girl named Ellie, a teenage mod who died in the 1960s. The twist on the typical werewolf is Scott, whom Gwen calls “Spot,” which the pup doesn’t mind, as he’s head-over-heels for our pale protagonist.
That’s hardly the least of it, though. iZombie has everything from a centuries-old mummy and monster hunters to a pack of female vampires who run a paintball business. Writer Chris Roberson packs so much into these first five issues of the series that finishing the graphic novel leaves a little to be desired. With all that’s been introduced, it’s evident that plot lines are going to start intersecting soon.
Despite all the many paranormal elements at play, though, iZombie is at heart a character-driven story about Gwen. She’s already dead by the time we meet her, and she has pretty much come to terms with her situation. Who she was before, how she died, and when she met Scott and Ellie are surely all things Roberson will get around to fleshing out in the future. And truthfully, the questions never really occurred to me until I started writing this review. There’s enough happening in these issues to keep those thoughts at bay.
In terms of actual story, this first volume of iZombie is something of a murder mystery. To keep from going full-on zombie, Gwen has to ingest brains once a month. Doing so allows her to hang on to her own memories, but also gives her the memories of those she eats. So, when she unknowingly cracks open the skull of a murder victim, Gwen feels compelled to get to the bottom of things.
The brain-eating is one of the more interesting aspects of iZombie and something which will no doubt make for interesting fodder in future stories. Still, the twist rings reminiscent of Image’s Chew; although, as with so much else about iZombie, Roberson so far succeeds at making this idea his own. Not to the book’s detriment, but that feeling of familiarity runs deep throughout this first volume – from the brooding main character with a quirk and the oddball friends to the forbidden love interest. At times everything from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Daria came to mind.
One complaint I have about this book is that it opens with a mini-story. In addition to collecting the first five issues of the series, the graphic novel also includes an iZombie short which appeared in the pages of Vertigo’s House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1. Although chronologically appropriate to put the mini-story at the opening of the book, it made for a rather redundant read. To open with the short story throws the book’s characters right at readers. It’s written in such a way that it almost assumes readers are familiar with Gwen, Ellie, and Scott. Having Issue #1 of the actual series follow this short ultimately does the inaugural issue somewhat of a disservice. Issue #1 of iZombie introduces Gwen and her supporting characters at an appropriate pace, but some of the big reveals in the issue, such as the fact that Gwen eats brains, are spoiled by the seven-page intro.
Overall, this first collection of iZombie is an enjoyable read with interesting takes on all the typical monster tropes. For a Vertigo series, though, it is sort of tame. But for as slow as the first few issues were in introducing the many characters at play, the fifth issue concludes the book with a hint that some really interesting stuff is on the way – having me on board for at least volume two.Visit: Chris Roberson | Vertigo
Purchase: Powell’s Books | Amazon