I just realized that it’s been almost exactly one year, give or take, since Kickstart Comics put out their first batch of graphic novels. Happy birthday, Kickstart! I kind of feel bad that I didn’t get them a present, especially since they sent me a copy of today’s new release, DEAD WALKER.
Written by comics newcomer Christian Forte with art by Shannon Eric Denton and Matt Jacobs (who are currently doing awesome work on Grunts), Dead Walker brings us Jon Walker. A brilliant scientist working on a cure for cancer, his research brings him some unwanted attention and a group of gunmen kill Walker and his family. Yes, by page 11, the main character is dead. But as you can probably guess from the title, the little matter of being dead doesn’t stop Walker from getting his revenge.
Thanks to a last-second injection of a chemical that repairs dead cells, Walker is able to pull himself out of his grave and seek vengeance. Now, I’ve gone on record with my dislike of zombie stories in the past. Luckily, that’s not how this plays out. Undead Walker isn’t a zombie – he has his full mental faculties and now he can take a ridiculous amount of punishment. With the help of his intern Karen (who also has a serious knack for firearms),Walkersets out to take violent revenge on the people who killed him. It is, and I mean this as a compliment, an 80s action movie translated into comic book form.
I had an absolute blast reading this book, because it’s such a perfect evocation of that action movie spirit. The dialogue had me grinning all the way through – “I’m just a dead man with a shotgun. And I have more rounds than you have monsters.” “That’ll teach him to bring a spear to a gunfight.” “Strictly a scientific question, but are you fireproof?” It’s impossible not to hear Rutger Hauer or Lance Henriksen in your head when you read Walker’s dialogue. It’s really rare to see this type of homage done so well in comics, and Dead Walker just nails that tone. I mean, it’s a comic that features a chainsaw vs. scythe fight between two reanimated dead guys. It’s pure, over-the-top fun.
That’s not to say there isn’t an emotional core, either. Sure, there are plenty of increasingly destructive shotgun fights, but we never really lose sight of the fact that Walker is a guy who lost his wife. He wants to finish things so that he can die. We even see occasional dream sequences with Walker achieving his peace, and it gives him more resonance than your standard indestructible badass.
I love the art here – it really conveys violence without being lurid. There are stranglings, exploding bodies, and severed limbs, but it’s remarkably free of gore. It’s very clean storytelling that occasionally shows us horrible things, but doesn’t dwell on it. The style reminds me a little of the work of Carlos Ezquierra, especially in the faces. Denton and Jacobs really pack a lot onto the page without cluttering it, making for some really striking sequences.Dead Walker is ridiculously fun – a perfect mix of character work and completely insane action scenes. It’s a great way to celebrate Kickstart’s first birthday as they head into Year Two. (And seriously, there really is a fight with a chainsaw vs. a scythe! If anybody doesn’t think that’s awesome, they need to redefine their terms.)