Let's be honest, in 2019, zombie stories have been done to absolute death. We've seen them on the big screen and on decade-long hit television series. They've served as social allegories and introspection on the human condition. They've been horrific unstoppable hordes and comedic background characters. We've seen slow-moving reanimated corpses, sprinting rage virus patients and everything in between. Even the idea of telling a zombie apocalypse story in the world of superhero comics is more than a decade old. So in order to make a zombie story stand out in 2019 you need two things — a killer spin on the usual narrative and the right atmosphere to match it. And by some miracle, DCeased has both.
Written by Tom Taylor alongside artist team Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano and James Harren, the latest DC Comics event takes its stab at the zombie subgenre with the first issue of DCeased this week.
The story sees Darkseid kidnap both Cyborg and the Black Racer in order to get his hands on the completed Anti-Life Equation, only for it to (literally) blow up in his face in horrific fashion. As Cyborg returns to Earth, we first learn the hook of this apocalypse. Instead of an undead horde being driven by some primordial sinister hunger, these zombies have been exposed to the Anti-Life equation and try to disfigure themselves before viciously attacking each other. And the form in which the Equation spreads turns out to be a stroke of genius from Taylor — social media.
The best zombie stories tend to be the ones with a deeper message underneath. What do the zombies represent, how do we as a society react, etc. But having them spread through Twitter and electronic screens is a wonderfully biting commentary directed at so many of us who are hooked on technology. Once Batman does the math on how quickly the Equation will spread to the entire planet, the reader is smacked in the face with the simple message that if this outbreak was real we'd be utterly helpless to stop it.
Beyond the basic idea, Taylor shines in his latest appearance under the DC banner. The banter he displays between the members of the Justice League, Damian Wayne, and Jonathan Kent shows he hasn't lost a step in jumping headfirst into a comic universe and understanding character dynamics. He also brings a wonderfully chilling sense helplessness and dread to the story, particularly when a tongue-less Cyborg (yes, you read that right) can do nothing but utter a guttural "NUH!" as he sees the equation begin to spread.
The book also knows how to play with expectations. No spoilers here, but those who were hoping Batman would be the central figure in the story based on promotional material and the three variant covers better get ready to be disappointed.
The artist trio does an excellent job enhancing the story, particularly with the disfigured zombies and the gooey pools of bright red blood that splash across pages as the infection spreads. Unlike Marvel: Zombies where the art gave the book a zany, demonic fun house feel, the artists' depiction of twisted masses of bodies make it abundantly clear that no sense of nihilistic joy is meant to come from this. This book is made to be horrifying, and it pulls no punches.
While it's only the first issue and there are plenty of places where DCeased could trip up or lose steam across the next five issues, all signs point to this becoming an instant classic and a memorable addition to the zombie subgenre.
Published by DC Comics
On May 1, 2019
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano, James Harren
Colors by Rain Beredo
Letters by Saida Temofonte