The prospect of Sherlock Holmes vs. anything is a pretty attractive deal for me but Victorian Undead is pretty much a horror/mystery wet dream that throws in everything but the kitchen sink to achieve maximum cool. I was once reminded here on this blog that not everything old timey and British constitutes Victorian and this is certainly the case here. Around the turn of the century, the last century, that is, Holmes and Watson are called in by Scotland Yard to have a look at a dead man who defies logic and continues to live. Before any conclusions are drawn, though, MI5 shows up and shutters the case. This, of course, does not stop Holmes who eventually uncovers a sort of writhing mass grave below the streets of London and stumbles into the plot of his now undead arch-enemy James Mortiarty to turn all of England into a shambling horde of zombies.
Writer, Ian Edginton, a 2000AD regular, is exceptionally familiar with the rich lore of Holmes, he also knows how to have a good time with a ton a genre tropes, all playing nicely with one another in a single six issue series. You get the usual Holmes treatment with the obvious zombie horror, steampunk elements and nods to Dr. Who, James Bond and Professor Quatermass. Victorian Undead, for anglophiles, is a gigantic love letter to British pulp culture. Fall in love with this book.
I have been waiting with baited breath for I, Zombie ever since I spotted it in the House of Mystery one-shot last year. I hate reviewing Issue 1′s because of how vague the books can be. Every issue 1 is out to introduce characters and set up the issues to come, so it’s hard to get a handle on what’s going on. I, Zombie introduces Gwen Dylan, zombie girl detective. She lives in a cemetery, hangs out with a ghost from the 60′s and puts up with the relentlessly awkward advances of a were-terrier named Scott. In order to maintain her state of human appearance, Gwen has to eat brains once a month lest she turn into a shambling, rotting corpse. In the process, she gains the memories of the brain she’s eating. In this particular issue 1, Gwen eats the brains of a murder victim and is compelled to find out what happened.
I began a love affair with Mike Allred back in the day when I was introduced to the pages of Madman, a quirky super hero book that you could read and still maintain credibility with your Eight Ball reading friends. Allred’s art here is Allred’s art. If you’re familiar with his minimalist, old school graphic design style, you won’t miss a beat. It’s all clean, organic lines, solid inks and soft coloring. Chris Roberson’s script is where the book excels, of course. This is about the most original mystery premise I’ve ever seen and the book’s tragic characters, bearing a likeness to the BBC series, Being Human, are a tragic lot in spite of the sometimes comical and weird circumstances. Lots of fun and nice to look at, I, Zombie is definitely worth following into issue 2.
I need you to understand something. I don’t buy monthly books anymore. The cover prices on these books are just too damn high and comics are full of shit, mostly. Something genuinely original comes along so seldom and even some of my favorite books don’t compel me to keep up with them monthly, but Sparta USA just might be the most fascinating title of 2010 that keeps me coming back every month for a new issue. Roght from the get go, something seems very wrong with the town of Sparta whose 10,000 citizens all play football at some level. As a matter of fact, the whole town seems cut off from the rest of the world, stuck in a small town mentality that is an extreme-right-winger’s dream come true. They all live under the thrall of The Maestro, wise leader with blue skin who shows up a few times a year to deliver babies supplied to the community by the President of the United States, who, in this book, is almost regarded as god or at least The Pope. Meanwhile, living in the hills is the greatest quarterback Sparta ever knew, now gone rogue and living off the land, he and his red skin return to Sparta to show everyone the mysterious and terrible truth about the world outside of Sparta.
I don’t even know where to begin with Sparta USA. The art isn’t much to write home about. It’s a thick line, low detail style from artist Johnny Timmons that is suitable and strictly utilitarian. However, it’s writer, David Lapham’s crazy-ass ideas of the Texas lifestyle run amok that cements the plot firmly in weirdsville. In its second issue, the series is out of its mind and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Whatever brought the idea to Young Liars writer, Lapham is beyond me and how he managed to pitch is successfully to Wildstorm is even harder to understand. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s fucking awesome, in fact. It’s just that it’s so original and strange that it’s hard to see any company printing this book. Sparta USA combines Americana with fairy tales and mythology and not that Fables way. It’s a hard sell but I urge you to check this one out.