iZombie: A Heroine with Brains
In the back of the first four American Vampire books sneak preview pages for other Vertigo series have lurked – the most attractive of them being the iZombie series by the artistic team which brought the world Madman, Michael and Laura Allred and written by Chris Roberson. The series is about a young woman who must eat a brain once a month in order to maintain her existence, but in the process absorbs the thoughts and impulses of the person whom she consumed. The first example leads to her solving a mystery – Nancy Drew style.
Gwen is helped along by her band of wacky friends – a ghost from the 1960s named Ellie and a Were-Terrier named Scott (who the ladies lovingly call Spot). Also lurking behind the scenes are a band of paint-balling female vampires and a mysterious mummy. A liberal college town feels like the perfect setting for these supernatural creatures, who live together in the super awesome town of Eugene, Oregon. Where else could these groups live without detection? While it’s not my P-Town, Eugene is equally as cool.
Well, they don’t exactly exist there untroubled – two Fossors (who essentially hunt supernatural creatures) have entered town and are looking for a murderer piling up dead bodies. One of them is young and attractive, the other sporting a potentially job-related facial scar, which is sexy in it’s own way.
So – while iZombie sports Gwen as it’s heroine, it’s really more of an ensemble cast. Even Spot’s friends in the college IT department are featured prominently.
WHAT’S NOT SO GREAT
Some of the writing is a little wobbly in the first few issues, but there are some highlights – especially when Gwen’s voice is prominently on display. The sequence towards the end of the first issue when Gwen is digging up her victim to munch on his brain is positively gorgeous, hilarious and chilling.
At times, the characters seems a bit too forced quirky and their dimensionality is lacking, but they each have a distinct personality and history which carried the story well through the first four issues. My hope is that more will be revealed about them in the near future.
The art is saved from being too cartoony by the delicious shading, which fills out the faces and scenery – giving them much needed depth. The work reminds me quite a lot of Underground, but in this instance it’s salvaged by the colorist, rather than hindered. Gwen especially, with her white and grey hair, yellowed zombie eyes and purple/ash skin is gorgeously rendered. I can’t imagine her looking more appealing if she were alive. Probably the prettiest and sexiest Zombie I’ve ever seen. And shockingly, she doesn’t need to bare her body parts to effect that aura – although there are a few scenes in which she’s naked while changing. All done very tastefully, and showing us that her body looks like a real woman’s. No crazy big boobs or narrow wist and curvaceous hips.
Also enjoying a cast that features a wide range of races, without feeling like they are inserted because of tokenism or some desire or need to seem or feel multicultural. In fact – it seems a better reflection of the diversity that a college town like Eugene would probably boast.
I’m not crazy in love with this series – but I’m intrigued by it. It’s got a unique and local spin on supernatural creatures, a diverse cast of characters, and a strong but strange heroine.
As I mentioned before – I need to see a bit more character development or history in order for me to really feel invested in these characters. Sure, there were moments when I was genuinely concerned for their safety, but I’m not exceptionally compelled either way at the moment.
For now – the zany group, the mystery and the gorgeous artwork are enough to keep me coming back.
Bechdel Test: iZombie features several female characters and PASSES the women test, does PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters with names and speaking parts, so therefore it DOES PASS the race test.