If you're like me, Sunday nights now feel empty since AMC's The Walking Dead has gone on hiatus until February. Mourn no longer! Here's a list of worthy zombie comics that can fill the void left by the show's departure.
1. The Walking Dead
Well, duh. Of course we must start by recommending the definitive comic that revitalized zombie fiction. The characters from The Walking Dead were spawned in the gritty black-and-white pages of the comic. You'll find that the plot is somewhat different in the comic, even though the players are mostly the same. Events happen differently in the comic and the show has a way of keeping you guessing, so don't worry that reading the comic might spoil the show. (My theory is that Darryl Dixon, who isn't in the comic, is the catalyst for all the differences between the show and the comic. His mere presence changes who lives and who dies. He's that awesome.) I like to tell people that The Walking Dead comic isn't really about the zombies (although there are plenty) – it is about the struggle to survive when society and order disappears, and the effect of that on the people living in that mess.
The Walking Dead is also a long-running comic – with 105 issues so far – which means that they'll be plenty of material to keep you busy.
Where to start: The Walking Dead Volume 1, Days Gone Bye
2. 28 Days Later
Being a zombie fan, you've almost certainly seen Danny Boyle's excellent contagion flick 28 Days Later. The film featured Londoners attempting to escape hordes of infected 28 days after the initial outbreak of the devastating Rage virus. Early in the film we're introduced to Selena (Naomie Harris), the survival-savvy black woman who rescues the main character Jim (Cillian Murphy) from the infected.
We have good reason to believe that the comic continuation begins 28 days after the film. It picks up with an American reporter named Clint who decides to sneak past the quarantine into infected London. He convinces Selena (one of the “Manchester Three” survivors, as the comic calls them) to go back in to London so he can get the “real story”. Her reasons for entering that insanity again are one of the mysteries that the comic unravels. The infected aren't the only threat in the quarantine area, either.
The 28 Days Later comic fills in everything between the first and second movies with several unexpected twists that give the reader a big payoff. With 6 trade paperbacks, you're going to have plenty of comic goodness to sink your teeth into.
Where to start: 28 Days Later Volume 1: London Calling
3. The Last Zombie
The United States fell to zombies over a year ago, and the living dead have, for the most part, died off again. The government has separated into a series of FEMA bunkers to wait out the infection. We follow Dr. Scott, who's fiance is in another bunker across the country with high-profile government officials, when contact is suddenly lost. No one knows what the cause of the outage is – it could be a malfunctioning radio, or something much worse. After all, if the bunker could survive zombies, what threat would be serious enough to take them down? Dr. Scott and convoy of soldiers set off on a cross country trip to find out.
This comic is great because it deals with an entirely different aspect of the zombie apocalypse – the period afterwards. What have people had to do to survive this catastrophe? What has happened to the landscape and the wildlife without man to keep them in check? What other dangers lurk in the wasteland? The Last Zombie is not a typical zombie comic and is worth the read.
Where to start: The Last Zombie, Volume 1
4. Key of Z
Ready to shake things up? Key of Z is a whole new flavor of zombie comic. The city of New York disintegrated when the zombie apocalypse began, but pockets of survivors found refuge in the city's stadiums.
Nick Ewing lost his wife and daughter when the stadiums went to war, and he's got a score to settle with the king of Yankee Stadium. Out-manned and outgunned, Nick has one equalizer: a mysterious, broken harmonica which plays tunes that can control the undead hordes.
The series is written by Claudio Sanchez, the frontman of the progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria. He's no stranger to comics, and Key of Z is proof that magical things can happen when a usually formulaic plot is rewritten by a person with a totally different perspective. The artwork creates a trippy vision of the zombie apocalypse and manages to incorporate the feel of the music featured in the story. Key of Z breathes new life into the zombie fiction genre.
Where to start: Pick up Key of Z Volume 1, which covers the entire story
Revival isn't exactly a zombie comic. It's something else – something not entirely defined yet. The other comics on this list are either well-established or already complete, but Revival is a new series from Image Comics that made a blockbuster entry into the comics world. Now is the perfect time to get started.
Revival tells the story a rural city in Wisconsin, where for only one day, those who died came back to life. The “revivers” aren't hungry for flesh, but they aren't quite right, and if you re-kill them they come back to life. The story follows Office Dana Cypress, who has been assigned to a special team to investigate incidents involving the revivers. The city is under quarantine, and people are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives while pundits and religious nuts are seeking to exploit the town's unusual situation.
The first few issues of Revival have some of the spookiest imagery I've ever seen in comics. If you want a deeper look at what you're in for, read my review of Revival #1.
Where to start: Revival Volume 1, You're Among Friends. And if you like it, be sure to add Revival to your ongoing comics pull list.