Zombie stories are a dime a dozen and for good reason. There is something deeply fascinating and infinitely terrifying about the idea that death isn't final, and that the dead could rise again. Zombie stories generally lean into the most terrifying facets of the zombie genre, but Dead Day #1—created by writer Ryan Parrott and artist Evgeniy Bornyakov—gives the classic zombie tale a slick new spin, mixing it up as a The Purge-style event injected with a bit of mystery while still keeping the horror vibe humming just below the surface.
Dead Day isn't a straightforward story in the sense that it does not explain much about the event from which it takes its title. However, the sense of being dropped into this story in media res is a real strength. We meet a family on the morning of the Dead Day "holiday" as they make preparations for the event. While they are preparing for the return of the dead as one might any other holiday, it becomes clear right away that there's more to this scenario. Melissa, the mother, is planning on going out during Dead Day and while she behaves like the event isn't very dangerous, there's a strong sense that Dead Day isn't the innocuous event it's initially made out to be.
Parrot layers the intrigue atop that sense of unease. Melissa had a life before she was a wife and mother that somehow ties to her mission on Dead Day while her son Brandon's chance encounter with a classmate who belonging to a Dead Day cult hints at a sinister teen drama as well. The overall effect is a seamless balance of the story's light and dark sides—and it makes for one hell of a hook. Bornyakov's artwork assists that balance well. It's all clean, crisp, and realistic, so even the risen dead in this first issue aren't absurdly gruesome. It's unsettling if you think too much about it. That's something which lines up well with the very concept of "holidays" for some of us; look too closely and things are more frightening than they appear.
The helpful infographics about Dead Day that close out the issue are also a disturbing delight, reinforcing that this new series inhabits a unique space among undead horror tales. They also serve to break down how dangerous Dead Day can be, but in a neatly sanitized fashion. It’s an altogether brilliant addition to the comic.
Ultimately, Dead Day #1 is a killer first issue (no pun intended) of what could be a unique zombie tale. A layered story, compelling mystery, and tone that finds perfect balance between the bucolic and terrifying all make this a truly gratifying debut. It will be interesting to see where Dead Day goes—and just how sinister this holiday really is.
Published by Aftershock Comics
On May 27, 2020
Written by Ryan Parrott
Art by Evgeniy Bornyakov
Colors by Juancho!
Letters by Charles Pritchett
Cover by Andy Clarke with Jose Villarrubia