Monday, July 12, 2010

"Hello, Little Ghost." - iZombie #3


On one of the several stints I did in New York, I let slip in a cafe in Astoria, Queens, that I had been a fan of the television show 'Friends', to which was met with some very slight agape looks. Yes, I realized, especially as a rent-poor New Yorker, that the exploits of a group of Gen-Xers with low-paying jobs as massage therapists, line cooks, and bit actors living in great apartments in the Village while dating, flirting, and sleeping within their small incestuous group was (only) somewhat  unrealistic. I didn't care. I still don't. I stand by my belief that it was, for the most part, a clever and humorous show that embodied the essence of New York if not the reality of it. It was a fantasy world where your best friend lived next door and could walk in at any time to comfort you or make you laugh, because, hey, the door is conveniently left unlocked, you know, to make the impromptu entrance easier. Filmed in a three-camera style that seems antiquated now in our single-camera filmed-like-a-movie sophisticated alt-comedy world, 'Friends' is now a throw-back to a simpler pre-9/11 New York time. I love it more now than I did then.

What does this have to do with a zombie comic? iZombie, the new Vertigo series by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, embodies a similar innocent spirit and wraps it all up in a classic movie-monster motif painted day-glo Laugh-In colors. The main characters consist of a brain-eating zombie, a ghost from the Sixties complete in Nancy Sinatra ensemble, and a man who turns into a terrier every month on the full-moon. Throw in a group of sexy supermodel vampires, two monster hunters, and a mystery involving a spooky house on the hill, and you've got the makings of something truly bizarre and thoroughly entertaining, not to mention, utterly charming in a retro-milk-and-cookies way.

That's what made me think about 'Friends'. This group of hipsters hang out at a local coffee shop and are the only friends each other really seem to have. They dress in vintage clothing, either by ironic choice or because they, well, died in the clothing and are stuck in their era, and one even has a crush on the other, setting up a will-they-won't-they scenario á la Ross and Rachel. It's a sit-com in comic book form.

iZombie #3 is the first issue to really pull away from the exposition station and start moving down the tracks toward storyville. This issue sees the intertwining story lines of vampire hunters and monster-friends literally crash into each other, as our heroine-zombie Gwen, has a meet-cute with monster-hunter Horatio. (Yes, I love hyphens!) They run into each other outside the coffee shop like high-school kids in the hall after homeroom. The dashing Horatio helps Gwen to her feet, and their eyes meet in a moment of instant attraction. The gruff hipster-facade Gwen wears slips as she is overcome by her feelings of desire for this mysterious square-jaw new on the scene. It's also a moment of revelation for the comic, as it introduces the element of romance to the already overflowing mix. It's wonderful.

iZombie could really be titled something along the lines of Racy Horror or Spicy Mystery with taglines like "Zombies in Love!" It's truly a sweetly innocent interpretation of the Bill Gaines EC-style comics of the 1950's as filtered through a 'Scooby-Doo Where Are You?' kaleidoscope. These meddling kids are going to solve this mystery, save the town, and maybe groove to some right-on tunes before all is finished. For now, Gwen and company can let themselves in, the door is open.

iZombie #3, written by Chris Roberson, with art by Michael Allred, was released on 8 July, 2010 by Vertigo Comics.
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