The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks (Three Rivers Press)

zombies-header.jpgMax Brooks brings his "Zombie Survival Guide" series to comics with this bit of historical fiction that follows the walking undead from throughout the ages.

 

 

144 pgs., B&W; 17.00

(W : Max Brooks; A: Ibraim Roberson)

Zombies have been a persistent feature in American popular culture for decades: the metaphor of "the living dead" has allowed them to stand in for everything from exploited workers to godless communists to Eisenhower-era conformists to mindless suburban consumers. In this age of anxiety which we call the 21st century, zombies retain their fascination as essentially blank slates which can represent fears about anything from global terrorism to viral pandemics.

The cover to Recorded Attacks by Ibraim Roberson. Click for a larger image.Max Brooks has created one of the more successful recent zombie franchises with his "Zombie Survival Guide" series, which parodies the contemporary craze for guides which instruct you in how to survive anything from a bear attack to jumping off a moving train. Recorded Attacks is the first graphic novel in the series: it presents "historical accounts" of zombie attacks from 60,000 BCE to 1992 CE. The stories are all presented silently: their narratives are carried by the art plus voiceover narration in the style of a fact-based television program which takes itself a bit too seriously. So the first episode informs us that a recent expedition in Central Africa discovered a cave painting which "many believe to be a warning of what may be humanity’s first (recorded) encounter with the living dead," portrays that encounter, then closes by returning to differing academic interpretations of the cave art. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief sufficiently to enter this universe (and why would you be reading this book if you aren’t?) it’s pretty effective stuff.

Brooks offers up mock-serious explanations for known historical facts, all relating to zombies of course. Why did Egyptians remove the brains of their dead before mummifying them? Because that’s the only way to be sure a zombie joins the world of the unliving dead. Hadrian’s Wall? It was built as a defense against not marauding Scots but marauding zombies. And the next time you hear about a hiker who mysteriously disappears in the woods, just remember: they may still be walking the earth as a member of the voracious undead. If you really want to feel bad, remember that with modern transportation we’re all so connected that, just like H1N1, there’s no place that zombies can’t go.

Brooks has a nice tongue-in-cheek style of writing, which he comes by honestly as the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. But the real standout in this volume is the art by Ibraim Roberson (who, oddly enough, is only credited on the back cover) which is quite vivid (as in, too gross for anyone younger than high school) but also has a good feel for different historical periods which helps you buy into the novel’s premise of zombies as a force throughout recorded history. His style is heroically eclectic (lots of bulging muscles to go with the rotting flesh) and cinematic with lots of rapid cuts, dramatic changes of perspective and attention-getting angles.

The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks goes on sale Oct. 6. You can see a preview on the publisher’s web site http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/recordedattacks/, catch up on the world of zombies according to Max Brooks at http://www.randomhouse.com/crown/zombiesurvivalguide/index2.html and see more of Roberson’s work at http://www.ibraimroberson.com/. | Sarah Boslaugh

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