Review: Grim Crew Presents: Dead Future #5
DEAD FUTURE #5 “Fade to Death” Writer: Matt “Doc” Martin Artist: Drake Harris Letterer: Martin Brandt II “Homecoming” Writer & Letterer: Martin Brandt II Artist: Michael Odom “O’Doulls Strikes” Writer: Matt “Doc” martin Artist: Nathan Wiedemer Letterer: Martin Brandt II Publisher: Grim Crew Comics Dead Future, Grim Crew Comics’ flagship title, for those not in the know, is a bi-monthly anthology featuring stories about zombies. Sounds simple, right? Everyone knows zombies, and they’ve been in vogue for a few years now. Where Dead Future differs from the norm, however, is that the stories contained in the series run the gamut of almost every imaginable comic genre, tied together only by the inclusion of zombies in each story. Some are horror stories, but unlike most zombie fiction, they are not all zombie stories and that makes all the difference. In issue #5 we have three stories from two different writers and three different artists and I will review each separately. The first story, “Fade to Death,” is set during the peak of the Vietnam War. The basic plot is that a squad, accompanied by a mysterious “Major Jorgenssen” who has been foisted upon them, ventures into the jungle to rescue any survivors of a helicopter crash. Along the way, they are accosted by a group of Viet Cong soldiers, and shortly after they find the downed helicopter encounter a zombified VC. The mysterious major had been desperately searching for something he believed was aboard the helicopter and the obvious implication is that it was transporting some sort of zombie virus. The art for this story was decent. Not great, but decent. I’ve seen far worse. It reminds me of the semi-professional B&W comics that popped up left and right during the “black and white explosion” of the mid-1980s. However, Drake Harris has a good sense of anatomy and panel balance and the art fit the story well. Given a chance, I believe he’ll improve dramatically over time. The writing, however, is unfortunately weak. The story didn’t draw me in and even when something happened, I found myself not caring much. The character descriptions at the beginning of the story, while typical of war stories, felt forced. Ten pages isn’t much time to develop characters, and I think if there were fewer it may have worked better. Another issue was the dialogue; it was forced and stilted throughout the story. The lack of contractions was distracting and took me out of the story, and stock movie phrases like “that is on a need to know basis” made me groan. Again, though, I believe Matt Martin has the basis of the form down and that this is a very early attempt for him. The second feature, “Homecoming,” is a futuristic tale that tells the story of a long-lost colony ship’s return to Earth orbit and the soldiers who are sent to investigate the derelict, only to find the ship overrun by zombies. The story is simple and enjoyable. Michael Odom’s art is excellent. He has a great sensibility for this type of story, and his designs for both the space ships and the soldiers’ hardware are at once innovative and realistic. It’s difficult to come up with a combination like that without borrowing from other works, sometimes, but Odom has done it. His style works perfectly for this story, and he uses light and shadow to great effect while giving us some very expressive characters throughout. Martin Brandt’s story is also very well done. There a few places where I would have tweaked the dialogue, but the story is well-paced, the characters are developed enough that I wanted to know what happened to them and the story both begins and ends logically. Brandt has a tendency to leave his endings implied, I’ve noticed, and this story is no exception. I’d like very much to know what happens next, but I’ll have to use my imagination I suppose. The final work, “O’Doulls Strikes,” is a humorous tale about a dim-witted punk rocker, a cranky and hung-over leprechaun and a hoard of zombies. After the punk rocker stumbles upon the sleeping leprechaun’s hidey hole, literally, while desperately trying to escape ravenous zombies, the lucky little man takes matters into his own hands. Nathan Wiedemer’s art for this story is exceptionally engaging. It brings to mind Jhonen Vasquez, as well as the best cartoons from the days when animators could make them as violent as they wished. His characters are eminently expressive, with fantastic and amusing facial expressions, and his panel layouts are an exercise in controlled chaos that lead the eye exactly where it’s supposed to go while making you feel as if every page is a thrill ride. It’s easily the strongest and most polished art in the book. This story also fully redeems Matt “Doc” Martin. After the showing of his first story in this book, this story is a complete 180 turn. The story is brilliantly written panel to panel, while the dialogue is exactly what is needed where it is needed. If this is where Martin’s storytelling skills lie, as it seems to be, I strongly recommend he forget the serious stories in the vein of “Fade to Death” and focus on the more humorous fare. I know that I would like to read more stories like this, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. This issue of Dead Future, while starting off weakly, redeems itself and its second and third stories are two of my favorite features in the series so far. If Grim Crew can assemble more stories like this, the series will have a long and happy life. The next issue isn’t far off now, and I’m eager to see what it brings. You can pick up "Grim Crew Presents: Dead Future" over at Drivethurcomics.com or Indyplanet.com and for more information head on over to TheDeadFuture.com.