Saturday, 8 August 2015

Reviews - Zombies Anthology.

Review by Vic Spanner on in 2008

Welcome aboard Mark (Vic Spanner) Beechill, not happy with just making fine music Vic add his voice to what seems to be an Accent UK wave of approval, now without further delay, take it away...

After several weeks of my local comics dealer politely hassling me to buy it, I finally gave in and purchased the “Zombies” anthology, published by Accent UK in 2007. A collection of short tales mostly written and drawn by up-and-coming UK writers and artists, my first impression of this book was of a bumper edition of Tharg’s Future Shocks. Short, sharp tales, almost all told in six pages or less, most of the stories here manage to nail the art of telling the perfect short story. And even if some of them don’t, or aren’t your personal cup of tea art or story-wise, then there’s thirty-two to choose from, plus a lovely gallery at the end.

  The set starts with an introductory guide to all things undead, which has some nice film references in it for the knowing movie fan and a narrator who reminds me of the guy from Creepshow. What follows is a genuine variety of styles and ideas, too many too mention individually. Highlights for me include “Zombies” (Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor) with its inevitably gruesome ending, the gorgeous artwork of “Tragic Kingdom” (Owen Johnson and Garry Brown), the undead boyband antics of Andy Winter and Natalie Sandell’s “Pop Zombie” (“they only want you fro your brains!”), and the great “Zombie Of The Great Unwashed” by Jason Cobley and Paul Harrison-Davies (a zombie down the jobcentre – worthy of it’s own series).

  If I have to pick one story though, my personal favourite has to be Bridgeen Gillespie’s “Dissolution”, which is like “The Bunny Suicides” written by David Lynch. It’s easily the most surreal (and oddly disturbing) thing on offer here in a collection that mixes humour, sadness, history and social commentary. Only a couple of the tales didn’t hit the mark for me, but as I mentioned, there’s something here for everyone, and at £6 for 168 pages, that’s got to be value for money.

  With a “Robots” anthology is due in 2008 with an increased page count, this looks to be a reliable source of emerging talent (with the help of a few elder statesmen like Steve Bisette) and ideas. Now I just need someone to draw my short story…

Review by Dave Hailwood on in 2008.

With the rapidly-approaching arrival of Accent Press Robots anthology, David Hailwood kindly provides downthetubes with a review of last year's collection, Zombies...

As a good friend of mine once said ‘Zombies are in many ways like skinheads. Quite comical when they’re on their own, but get them in packs and you’re in for a pasting!’

Well, the anthology from Accent UK certainly packs in enough zombies to give anyone a good pasting. The cunningly titled Zombies anthology weighs in at a hefty 168 pages, costs a mere £6.00 and contains the work of 50 creators from the small and large press comic scene.

With so many strips crammed inside (and indeed so many zombies) it would be natural to expect quite a few stinkers; fortunately these are few and far between.

What’s perhaps most impressive about this anthology is the sheer variety of stories on offer. Every creator seems to have tackled the zombie theme in a new and inventive way. There’s Zulu zombies, Big Brother zombies, Stuffed Rabbit zombies, Dole zombies, Boy Band zombies, Nightclub zombies, Carnival zombies and, of course, zombies from Cornwall.
There’s also a decent mix of comedy and tragedy. In ‘House Of The Dead’ Beano cartoonist Laura Howell does something I never would have dreamed possible – she actually manages to make Reality TV look interesting, providing a wealth of characters that it’s an absolute pleasure to see get eaten.

In contrast, Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor provide a dark and gripping tale about one mans gradual loss of humanity as he attempts to survive a life among zombies, eventually resorting to cannibalism.

Other strips worthy of mention are ‘The Zombie Interviews’ by David Baillie, which contain possibly the worlds greatest collection of zombie fart gags, ‘Sacrifice’ by Kieran Brown, Nolan Worthington and Shaun Mooney, which has a very clean and dynamic art style, and the hilarious ‘An Alphabet of Zombies’ by Steve and Daniel Bissette (any strip that contains a zombie wearing his own backside as a hat is fine by me).

Fans of zombie movies will also enjoy the intertextual layers of many of the strips, with just about every famous zombie movie being referenced in some way inside (my favourites being the Umbrella contraceptives machine in Chris Doherty’s ‘Nightclub of the Living Dead’ and two Rome holiday ad posters put side by side to cunningly spell ‘Romero’ in Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable’s ‘The Scent Of Coriander’).

People who aren’t fans of zombie movies will enjoy the … uh … shiny paper. In fact, yes, let’s talk about that shiny paper for a moment. This certainly isn’t just your bog standard small press affair put together on a photocopier at work whilst the boss’ back is turned. This is a professionally produced tome of a comic, wrapped in a blood-red card cover brilliantly illustrated by Steve Bissette and Shane Oakley (the only thing that could’ve possibly made it better is if it was bound in the flesh of the living, but you can’t have everything).

If the cover doesn’t attract you and the contents don’t attract you, chances are you’re dead already. In which case there’s little left to do except send Ash from Evil Dead round with a chainsaw to lop off your head. So, you see, there’s really no excuse to not go out and buy this Zombies anthology now, is there?

Go on… Join usssssss!

Review by Regie Rigby on in 2007.

This is another book I picked up at Bristol but have only just gotten around to reading properly. Accent has developed a tradition of theming its more or less annual anthologies, and following hard on the heels of books full of stories about Pirates, Phobias, the labours of Hercules and War comes a book absolutely bursting at the seams with Zombies. The books are already available in selected comics stores, and will be solicited in Previews in the not too distant future. (I’ll give you the nod when…)

Like all anthologies Zombies is a bit of a mixed bag – which sounds like faint praise, but it isn’t. The fact is that while some of the offerings behind the blood red Steve Bissette cover are better than others, all of them are good. Positively the best kind of mixed bag possible!

From my point of view this chunky square bound black and white tome carries the added bonus of some top notch David Hitchcock artwork – something that we’ve been deprived of since he completed his Eagle Award Winning Springheeled Jack. Here he provides the visual element of ”An Mothley A An Ny-Marow”, or “Curse of the Undead”. Words are provided by Leah Moore and John Reppion, and the story, concerning a cursed mine and an evil Lord of the Manor is a little bit disjointed. Hitchcock’s art more than compensates for this though, and it’s really good to see his intricate pencils on a comics page again – by far the visual highlight of the book.

The story telling highlight for me was One, a quietly understated tale written by Darren Ellis supported by some sensitive plain line work from artist Roland Bird. Like all the best shorts there’s a lot more going on in this touching vignette of family life than at first meets the eye, but the twist at the end (not the one I was expecting) tells the reader everything they need to know about the world the family lives in. No explosions, no big speeches, no grand statements, heck, not even any actual Zombies. Just some subtle storytelling that does a lot more than you’d think.

It’s also an interesting example of how a writer can make use of the context in which their story will be read. We
know that this is a zombie story of some kind, so Ellis had no need to give us panels of exposition explaining how the undead have left their graves and begun to roam the streets. There are merely a couple of oblique references to “them”. That’s the beauty of this kind of anthology format, and it’s a trick that several of the other excellent stories in Zombies also use to good effect.

There are far too many individual tales in this book to go into them all in any detail – suffice to say that I enjoyed them all for different reasons. Highlights included Andrew Cheverton and Tim Keable’s The Scent of Coriander - at once a clever visualization of the lengths humans would go to just to continue with everyday life in a city infested by flesh eating undead, and a poignant love story. It was good to see Eagle Award winning writer Andy Winter teaming up with artist Natalie Sandells again on the satirical Pop Zombies. David Baillie’s six panel one page Zombie Interviews are also worthy of mention because every single one of them made me giggle.

There are nearly forty stories here, some fun, some scary, some moving, all good. It’s a fine addition to the Accent library of anthologies, and I commend it to

Review by Shane Oakley on the in 2008.

Just finished reading ZOMBIES, the latest 'themed' anthology from Accent UK. If you love the 'living dead' genre, then you'll LOVE this book. You get a whopping 168 black and white pages of comic strips and art, sandwiched between a suitably grisly cover from the putrescent pen of Steve Bissette (who in the eighties, along with Alan Moore and John Totleben, worked on an epic run of Swamp Thing - easily the best horror comics that DC have EVER done), and a back cover (and a coupla pics inside) by yers truly. Zombies is a real labour of love (and death), publishers Dave West and Colin Mathieson have made every effort to rise above their 'small press' origins, and they do, in grave-robbing spades. With it's eclectic mix of artists/writers, both pro' and amateur, striking design work by Andy Bloor (who also draws one of the most chilling stories in the collection) and first rate production values, this book holds it's own among the 'big guns'. It's not without it's weak points, page numbering would've helped, and some of the stories are very slight, sometimes too-obviously influenced/inspired by Romero's movies and Shaun of the Dead. But most, Gary Crutchley's Job Satisfaction in particular, do it with wit and style. Zombies is far more 'hit', than 'miss', and for £6, it's a LOT of hit!

Review by Douglas Noble on in 2008.

Let’s see if I can’t get to the end of this review without making a horrible zombie related pun, shall we? The sixth themed Accent UK anthology takes the increasing popular horror subgenre of zombie stories as it’s subject for a solidly packed volume. I count 41 items on the contents page, and with that amount of stories, almost everyone should be able to find something to their tastes.The trouble with zombies, or at least zombies in the popular consciousness since Night of the Living Dead, is that there is nothing intrinsically interesting about them. They are slow and relentless, yes, but they are also without personality or motive, being little more than brain-eating machines. This means that to create an interesting story using zombies the creators have to have that be about something other than the zombies. It’s just not enough to shout “Zombies!” in a loud voice an expect everyone to cheer, though there does seem to be an element that do think that it’s enough to do just that.
In something of a coup for Accent UK, Steve Bissette provides the gloriously ugly cover for the book, which reminds you how much his particular brand of grue has been missing from comics for that last few years. Hopefully this will be the first of many new things from his pen, as he also does the art inside for a rhyming alphabet of zombies from a script by his son, Daniel. It’s not quite Edward Gorey, but it is fun.
Co-Editor Dave West abuses his privileges as captain of this particular ship to submit a story guaranteed inclusion, The Slow Undeath. Luckily, it also happens to be the best thing in the book, and the only story to entire eschew the trappings of the genre. West approaches the idea of the zombie through a group of workers, following their gradual dissatisfaction as the years pass. This is done with an almost clinical eye, as West frames each passing year with an identical page layout, the final panel of which shows the workers dropping slowly back into the main group walking towards their offices. These remain the most chilling images in the book, and stay with the reader for a long while after.
The team of Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor (or should that be Gillen Bloor?) provide a nasty little chuckle with their story of a man forced to survive amongst zombies by acting like them. It’s a story that cuts a bit deeper than most of the others in the anthology, bringing to mind similar scenes in Phillip Kaufman’s 197X remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Everyone can relate to the idea of trying to fit in, after all, and this pushes the idea to a hideous conclusion. Bloor’s art here is especially effective – the flow of his figure work has lost that stiffness that mars much of The Wolfmen, and it’s all the better for it. The deep shadows here recall not often point of comparison Charles Burns, whose art is ultimately cold and locked off from the reader, but rather EC artist Graham Ingels. Bloor has been getting steadily better over the last two years, and is one to watch.
The writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion reprise their teaming with David Hitchcock for a tale set in Victorian Cornwall. The art here is beautiful, full of glowering atmosphere, but it shares the problems that the same team had in earlier anthologies – this doesn’t feel like a whole story, merely the opening of a longer tale. The bit that we do have is very nice indeed, though, and is definitely worth a look.
Other stories of note include Davie Baillie’s series of one page Zombie Interviews, which pop up at various intervals throughout the book. They’re pretty funny for the most part, and Baillie’s art has improved dramatically since his Tongue of the Dead mini. However, repetition dulls the impact of the joke, and there’s at least one too many of these pages in the book.
The last story that I want to single out is Zombie of the Great Unwashed by Jason Cobley and Paul Harrison-Davies. This is a bright and cheerful look at the social aspects of being a zombie, as a friend of one of the dead tries to help him get benefits and employment. It’s good fun, but the reader can tell that there’s a brain ticking behind the story, as the rigmarole that the system forces the zombie to go through is portrayed as more frightening as the zombie himself.
There are dozens of other entries in the book, which weighs in at a whopping 168 pages, which range from slight to intense, with art to match. Most anthologies have their share of misfires, and this is no exception. There are a few things that I could barely finish, to be honest, and which refuse to rise out of the conventions of the genre. Here’s a hint – if your story is featured in an anthology called Zombies, then the shock revelation of a zombie really isn’t going to surprise anyone. Any anthology with just a specific theme is going to suffer from this to an extent, and so it is with this one, though there are a number of excellent stories contained within its pages that make the anthology worth a second look. Those pages could do with being numbered though.
Overall, this is a slick, great looking book, further establishing Accent UK as an important nexus for talent within British comics. The production and printing are all exemplary and the mix of stories, while lacking a little in breadth, showcases an interesting variety of styles. As with the last volume, this represents good value for money, and a great venue for some of the rising stars of the small press. In many ways this fulfils the promise of the previous Accent UK books, and as such, I look forward the next.

Review by Paul Bowles by email in 2007.

Hi Dave
Thanks very much, I have received your package and all was in great condition. As far as criticism goes, I cant give you any. All three books are great. Pieces that stood out (if that's any use) for me were; Zombies- Curse of the undead for the artwork, Z for the pace, The Slow Undeath for it's bleakness, One nice and brutal, The Scent Of Coriander really strong atmosphere- great story, "Zombies" awesome concept but Bloor really elevates it, his ability to make his characters perform is a bit special and the last few panels are intense. I found myself laughing as I did when watching the Romero films for the first time, because it's so absurd and yet so ruthless and real. Tragic Kingdom had some really nice imagery and great visual style that really lent itself to all things rotting. The guy eating the ice cream is particularly disgusting. Sacrifice also stands out 'cos of the art work, very clean, almost anime like, very kinetic and dynamic.
I really liked Monsters and The Wolfmen as well.

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