The Comic Book Club: Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine and I, Zombie

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This is what happens when Techland goes to the comic book store: Mike Williams, Evan Narcisse, Douglas Wolk and Lev Grossman end up talking about what we picked up. This week, we discuss the first issues of I, Zombie and Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine.

MIKE: I’m just a huge fan of Mike Allred’s art on I, Zombie. It’s one of those styles that can work for almost any genre. The premise of the lucid zombie isn’t that common, but I’ve seen it enough to know that the crisis of addiction, as it is, will eventually become pivotal in this book. Sooner or later Gwen is going to devolve into a classic zombie who needs a brain. It will probably happen while she’s “on the case.” This whole idea of her solving the last desires of the dead brains she eats sounds like Quantum Leap, or at the very least a USA drama.

EVAN: I, Zombie surprised me. At first, it seemed like it was going to be another prostitution-of-the-supernatural project, like the kind that have proliferated ever since Twilight fans have made Stephenie Meyer rich enough to print her own denominations of money. Any concept that assembles a menagerie of monsters should feel suspect. But the smart zombie gimmick felt like a nice tweak on brain-eater lore. Mike hits the nail on the head when he says this issue feels like a TV show pilot. The main premise could spin in any number of directions and I’ll probably follow along, as long as I’m not expected to like that were-terrier character. He’s already getting on my nerves.

LEV: Yeah, the I, Zombie thing is a bit too neat and a bit too cute for me. It feels like a treatment for a TV show I might watch, but only if it were showing on an airplane.


DOUGLAS: The big draw for me in I, Zombie is Mike and Laura Allred’s art–our protagonist Gwen, as Mike has noted, looks a lot like Dead Girl from the Allred era of X-Force/X-Statix, but I don’t care, I love the character design, and I love Laura A.’s sense of color. (The Allreds do some kind of color-plus-gray-tone thing I’ve seen very few other American comics artists do, and it gives their work a kind of animation-cel/depth-perception feeling I absolutely adore.) “Go-go girl detective zombie” is a cute premise, even if this issue is the Hey Guys Here Is Our Cute Premise issue; I thought Roberson’s writing on that recent Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love miniseries was pretty promising, and I do want to see where this goes. It does seem designed to hit all the “stuff Mike Allred specializes in drawing” buttons.

And of course the were-terrier gets on your nerves, Evan! He’s a terrier! Eager little dogs are annoying!

MIKE:  I don’t think I was prepared for the whole wacky adventure angle that Astonishing Spider-Man/Wolverine is taking. It’s very Marvel Team-Up. As I mentioned in Panel of the Week, the villain reveal was Devil Dinosaur. Well, it was a robotic, or at least cyborg, Devil Dinosaur, and he looked like he stepped out of an all-ages book.

DOUGLAS:  I’m intrigued but basically confused by the idea that “Astonishing” is now going to be the keyword for a sub-line from Marvel, especially since not only is there not a three-word explanation for what that sub-line is but I’m not sure I can articulate it at all. So “Astonishing” comics are… in continuity, but not so deeply entrenched in continuity that they’re not new-reader-friendly, and also by first-rate creators? Is it me, or isn’t that how superhero comics in general are supposed to work but usually don’t?

Anyway, yes, this did read like a more expansively paced version of an old Marvel Team-Up story–I could happily have lived with a less-than-four-dollar cover price and skipped the generic “pin-up” action shots of the two stars at the back. I got a kick out of the giant robot Devil Dinosaur at the end too, but I never got the sense that the story had come out of anything other than an available spot on a schedule (“hey, can you put Spider-Man and Wolverine in some kind of story together, and make sure it’s got some big action scenes?”). You could substitute any smart-guy and tough-guy characters into this story for Peter and Logan, and it would work just fine. Also, answering “why do these characters end up in the same story?” with “um… they’re stopping a bank robbery?” is as lazy as superhero writing gets. Kubert loses a couple of points for the two consecutive double-page spreads with no visual cues that they’re supposed to be read across the spread rather than one page at a time, too. That’s just sloppy storytelling.

MIKE: Is this what we can expect from the “Heroic Age”? I know Marvel has taken a dark turn in the last five years, but I’m not ready to jump back into bed with the Comics Code either.

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