COMIC REVIEW: Zombie Hi Issues 1-7

Zombie Hi #4 coverUproar Comics present an ambitious and interesting zombie comic-based project set in Derry, Northern Ireland. Let me explain.

Firstly, Hi is a colloquialism that everyone says in the north of the country. Secondly, there’s been a zombie apocalypse. It appears it is not supernatural, but perhaps the result of a viral infection. Thirdly, this is not just a series of comics in the traditional sense. Each issue is produced by a collective of writers and artists.

Each issue starts with the main thread; Zombie Hi, which covers the first third or so. There follows short comic strips in a variety of styles and one or two prose short stories. Each issue aims to look at the apocalypse from different perspectives reflected in the melange of story-telling styles. Each issue reflects life in Northern Ireland, and not just the political, cultural and historical aspects, but also explores the identity of those living there.

The main story arc of Zombie Hi sees a group of survivors battle against the undead, and their own histories and prejudices. They establish themselves behind an ancient stone wall and slowly make plans to reclaim Derry from the monsters. Meanwhile, a man – someone we’re never sure about and don’t fully see – attempts to inflame the anarchy. Issue 1 begins with a generational conflict highlighting the distrust of authority, which is a powerful subtext throughout the tales. It has the feel of an indie comic, which of course it is. It has a rough and ready edge, which gives it an indefinable power.

The art by gio and John Cambell is detailed black and white, but has a chaotic streak to it which sits well in the scenario. The dialogue by Danny McLaughlin is clean and honest. There is a short story by Holly and a coloured strip in a completely different style by Danny and gio. It is clear that these are set in the same universe as the main arc, but tell different stories. And so it continues throughout the issues (issue 6 has news from New York, issue 7 delves into history). The story becomes a more complex while the short prose and strips give other perspectives. Some of the prose works, some is not so good.

Like the art, it is presented in different styles and fonts in order to give each tale its own personality. And as the art varies dramatically across issues, like the prose, it not all will appeal to everyone; from the black and white sketch style to clean mainstream comic book art usually found in the pages of Marvel and DC (I particularly enjoyed Fearless from issue 2, which has nice art but also a fine wit to it). Back with the Zombie Hi story in issue 3 and the pencilling and inking is feeling more confident, as if the artists are becoming more comfortable with the world they’ve created. The black and white realism gives the violence a lovely, bitter contrast. Characters are now familiar to the reader too. Last Call by Mike Lynch and Joe Cambell featured here is my favourite of the vignettes. It is both a satirical comment on the modern world (a mini-reflection of Dawn of the Dead) and oddly touching as the zombie is shown to be more than just undead.

Issue 4 looks like more time and money has gone into it. It now features a contents page and a ‘Previously…’ update. Again, the art work has leaped in confidence again while remaining a tad hectic in style. A new arc is introduced called An Undead Friday which has a ‘to be continued’ tag at the end. The edge has gone from some of the art by issue 5 (as has the contents page), while the story remains solidly on track and engaging. An Undead Friday continues as Family Values but is not concluded (or revisited in the rest of the comics reviewed here).

There is also a charming little untitled piece featuring a boy and his toaster. No prose in this comic, but it does reappear in issue 6. And something else happens in 6 too. After page 1 of the titular story, colour seeps in to the art, after an explosion. At this point, the comic loses its charm. The dialogue also appears rushed – in the sense that there are too many bubbles in each panel. Sometimes it’s hard to gage who should be taking when. More panels with less dialogue would have made the story clearer. This continues and worsens during issue 7. There is however, a first piece of prose which is to be continued in a further issue. As mentioned, the written short stories vary in style and quality (What’s That Noise? in this issue is one of the better examples). Personally, I’m not sure they work in the context, but I’m sure others will disagree. I would have preferred graphic stories and vignettes throughout the series.

The talent on show is a mixture of up-and-coming and locally established artists and writers, and it is an ambitious and admirable venture, which on the whole is an enjoyable read. I found the move to colour in the main Zombie Hi arc unnecessary and distracting and I’m at a loss to why they didn’t keep the feel and tone of the first 4 or 5 parts. Almost all of the short comic tales worked well both in terms of art and story. The contributors are clearly passionate about the project, steeped in zombie lore and have, for the most part, significant aptitude as writers and artists. The over-riding themes of what it’s like to live in Derry are interesting, although the subtexts are almost texts (to paraphrase Rupert Giles) in most cases.

If you are interested in a rollicking zombie adventure, Zombie Hi might not be for you. If you want depth, variety, short stories, context and more, you should check it out.

Rating: 3.5/5
Reporter: Ian J Simpson

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One comment

  1. Thanks for the review, Ian! Keep an eye out for us in the future as we keep Uproaring!!!

    The comics are available on some great offers here-

    http://www.uproarcomics.co.uk

    Check us out!

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