Thee Comic Column #146: Descent of the Dead

DoDI’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; zombies are overdone. We’ve reached the  saturation point and most of what we see from here on out is recycled in some way or another.

Most.

It takes something really special in the, ahem, Zombie ‘genre’ to get on my good side because at this point not only has almost everything conceivable been done with Zombies: comedies, Romcoms, adventure/sci fi takes, big budget, low budget. Has there been an Elmo meets the Living Dead? Oops. Too soon?

Seriously, as we cycle through all the pre-established iterations of the zombie tale there is still a monthly reminder that perhaps the straight take is the best take, or at least the most long-lasting, and there’s nothing in that realm that is ever going to be as consistently good as Robert Kirkman’s monthly comic from Image called The Walking Dead. So what’s left? Well, until a few days ago I assumed nothing. Then, through an audience member at a recent taping of Drinking with Comics I made the virtual acquaintance of one Rich Perez, creator/writer of a comic called Descent of the Dead.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have something new. New and GOOD.

Descent of the Dead is published through Tango Unlimited Comics and it is through their site right here that you can go and order the first five volumes of the series (the sixth and final issue is due out sometime in 2016). They’re also available on Amazon, but my recommendation is always to eliminate the conglomerate middle man and pay the full cost to the creators directly. Each issue is a fairly lengthy chapter in the DoD saga, with #1 being the shortest and weighing in at 19 pages while each subsequent issue clocks in around 27 pages, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth. But wait, back-up, right? What makes Descent of the Dead so different from all the other zombie media out there? What about this book appeals to a fairly curmudgeonous zombie critic like myself? Well, let me begin my explanation by giving you a “this + this” elevator comparison.

Imagine the first three Romero zombie films (Night, Dawn and Day) combined with the 1980s GIJOE cartoon.

Yeah, really. Awesome, right?

Let me give you a quote from the series summary that Mr. Perez sent me:

“Descent of the Dead was a story first developed back in 1987. The influence of this story was based on the works of George Romero and his first three Living Dead films. The premise behind Descent of the Dead was to provide an end
state perspective to how the undead eventually conquer the earth and nearly drive human kind to extinction had they not fled to the seas. From there as time progresses, humanity continues to develop and survive and eventually regains a foot hold on dry land again once they begin to unravel the source of the undead’s re-animation tied to radioactive meteorites. By removing the source of re-animation humanity discovers that the undead are weak and can be easily

eliminated providing that there is no radiated energy sources. By performing a global hunt for these meteorites humanity quickly becomes the dominant species driving the undead nearly to the brink of extinction. Leading the charge is a highly trained militaristic team developed specifically to extract meteorites and eliminate zombies (aka Tango Company). Each member of this team having been bitten and survived are highly immune to infection however remain infectious carriers which is shunned in the new society.”
dotd card art 2013
They had me at “First three Romero films”. This is my zombie bread-n-butter folks. Night, Dawn and Day of the Dead are the gold standard by which I judge all other zombie works. Subsequently Mr. Romero re-booted his concept and that, in my opinion, was a mistake and a betrayal of his original concept. But I’ve always held that there’s room for others to continue the evolution of his world; one of the points that got me into The Walking Dead was the fact that Mr. Kirkman’s original title for the series was Night of the Living Dead and intended it to act as a continuation of said films. In this same way Descent of the Dead offers its own ideas on the evolution of the Romero-verse, in a much more direct fashion to boot. One that spins the story in a much more militaristic direction, one that has a much more cartoon logic at work.
Okay, cartoon logic? Well, think about the feel of those old Joe cartoons – they’re action heavy and filled with interesting, almost sci fi weapons and vehicles. There’s a lot of imagination at work in them. Same too in DoD, where Mr. Perez, Mr. Ledbetter and artist Steven Andos have designed a whole bunch of extrapolated scientific gadgets and weapons for Tango company to use in their missions to extract the radioactive sources of the Dead’s reanimation. There’s this really awesome grappling apparatus built into Tango Company’s uniforms, there’s chainsaw guns and flamethrowers and maybe most awesome, the Zombot.
Issue #1 of Descent of the Dead opens with Roanoke Colony, the first and at the time of our story oldest settlement humanity established after they regained their presence on land. The Living Dead are all but a boogie man at this point and people have become complacent and lazy. Then Roanoke goes radio silent and Tango Company is employed to find out why. It’s a great set-up for a story and the creators deliver something that feels very much like it operates on a GIJOE logic. We get to meet each member of Tango Co., learn a bit about their specialties and personalities, and then see a bit behind the curtain into what the operation driving them looks like. There’s politics, action galore and some very fun adrenaline shots into what could otherwise have been played very dramatic and sad. And therein lies the difference between DoD and the rest of the zombie genre. It’s a military story with zombies in it, not necessarily the other way around. And for an over-exhausted sub-genre, that’s a really good thing.
……………….

Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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