In an era when comic books have the same relationship with zombies as ESPN has with football, it’s difficult to find something fresh about the living dead, no pun intended. However, Grim Crew’s Dead Future Issue 1 is an anthology comprised of three zombie apocalypse stories all of which offer an element of originality in this otherwise predictable comic book niche.
The first story, Real Monsters, written by Martin Brandt II and Illustrated by Paul Petyo is a tale of day-to-day urban survival in a world overrun by zombies. This segment has all the trappings of the archetypal zombie paradigm as well as a few unique wrinkles. One of these is that the living can go about their business among the living dead provided they don’t upset the zombies’ routines and that these excursions take place during the day time. The most interesting and original aspect of Real Monsters is Paul Petyo’s approach to the illustrations. The panels are essentially photographs in which actors play the characters on various sets. These photographs have been digitally manipulated both to achieve a consistent aesthetic and to realize the details of the world in which Real Monsters takes place. The result is a creepy and realistic post apocalyptic cityscape come to life.
The second story, Major Tom, written by Martin Brandt II and illustrated by Martinho Abreu is a conventionally composed comic book narrative the strength of which is its concept. Major Tom and his crew are aboard a space station awaiting word from mission control regarding the launch of a resupply ship. With only 10 days of supplies remaining on the station, time is ticking when the launch mission gets canceled with no reasonable explanation. As the days count down, the dire situation reveals itself to Major Tom. A zombie plague has spread quickly across the globe and mankind is doomed to extinction. Tom and his crew are the only hope for the human race as they orbit the world awaiting the arrival of one last unmanned supply ship. This story drips out exposition and fills in the blanks at a nice pace, with a couple twists to boot. Abreu’s artwork is solid and utilitarian. The pages feature conventionally shaped panels of uniform size containing relatively basic grayscale pencil drawings that clearly convey Brandt’s story.
The last story, Non Mortuus, written and illustrated by Roberto Macedo Alves takes place in old world Europe during the 16th century. In an original take on the zombie plague mythos, Alves introduces us to Pope Innocent VIII who becomes power mad and a good deal crazy in general. When years of debauchery take its toll on the pope’s health he turns to witchcraft to stave off his impending death. His quest for immortality goes horribly wrong killing everyone involved with the spell, save for the witch. When the pope and his spell’s two sacrificial victims all return from the grave a zombie apocalypse burns across Europe. After the story’s peripheral narrator waxes optimistic regarding his own future it becomes clear that Pope Innocent’s inadvertent apocalypse will have huge implications on the way the history of the world unfolds, history books be damned!
Dead Future Issue 1 offers everything a comic book of the highest quality should offer. It features superior writing, impressive and various artwork, and most importantly it offers unique and compelling zombie stories proving there’s still some fight left in that old carcass. Aside from a few careless typos there are no glaring negatives to be found. How long the Dead Future series can deliver this level of storytelling is anybody’s guess, but issue 1 is a monster….no pun intended.