16th Apr2015

‘Zombies Hi: Issues 1-12′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Danny McLaughlin, Kevin Logue | Art by Michael Arbuthnot, Kevin Logue, Ruairi Coleman, John McFarlane | Published by Uproar Comics

zombies-hi-art

I imagine there is not much new that the zombie genre has left to give us, so kudos to publisher Uproar Comics for finding its own unoccupied corner of the genre. Although the zombies are the star of the Zombies Hi, omni-present and doing what zombies do, a little extra depth comes from setting the book in the city of Derry, in Northern Ireland (coincidentally where Uproar Comics are also based).

Derry has been able to seal itself from the zombies outside because of the walls that completely surround it, but Derry comes with a long history of sectarian divide, and the characters in the book reflect the different communities that live there.

The people thrown together, and who must now try and work together, are people that just a few weeks earlier would not have even spoken to each other, let alone help. Following in the footsteps trodden by The Walking Dead you are often led to wonder if the greater danger comes from the zombies outside the walls, or from the survivors themselves, with their petty disputes, personal issues, mistrust and discrimination that refuses to die.

Uproar obviously decided to go for a ‘hit the ground running’ feel, as the first issue os Zombies Hi dives straight into the zombie storyline with just the slightest hint of back story (a very brief mention of a flu epidemic). Added to this the slightly amateurish/ cartoony art of the first issue or two, and you get a sort of ‘handheld video cam’ feel to proceedings as we ride the whirlwind to keep up with the characters and events.

The art, and tightness of the scripting, improves noticeably as the series progresses. The artwork especially feels less ‘static’ as we progress, becoming a more organic part of the storytelling by the later issues. The scripting is one part Derry-as-a-character, one part zombies, and one part assimilation of the zombie films and books out there, from Romero, to Robert Kirkman, to Edgar Wright. The dialogue can be a bit tricky at times, as no effort is made to tone down the Northern Irish dialogue and slang. Although completely appropriate for the characters, it could put off the casual reader used to straightforward English/American dialogue in their comics.

Quality of individual issues can be variable, as they do not tell a single linear story but can contain a main story, a text piece, a single page or two with a standalone tale and so on. It’s a good way to bring the reader a glimpse of the wider world perhaps but also a little bit of a mixed bag of quality and themes, that can overwhelm the reader a little. Whatever your opinion, you cannot argue that 4-5 stories an issue is not great value.

While certainly a worthy undertaking, I would be looking for more consistency in the storytelling and art in the future to give Zombies Hi two thumbs up. From about issue 7 onwards the overall quality has steadily improved issue by issue, and knowing the company and main creative personnel are based in Derry leaves you in no doubt this is a very personal project to them, with a lot of genuine affection poured into those pages. Being their first ever ongoing title as well means they are entitled to a few missteps along the way.

A decent start has evolved into a solid book that is certainly worth a look, if only for finding a way to breathe new life into a very crowded genre.

*** 3/5

Issues 1-12 of Zombies Hi are available now from Uproar Comics.

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