Night of the Living Dead: Barbara's Zombie Chronicles (2005)
By: Trist Jones on August 16, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Credits
Publisher:
Writers: Joel Moen and Mark Kidwell
Art: Mark Kidwell
Issues: 3
Wow. What a horrible disappointment. I want my half-hour back!

Comics are a fickle thing when it comes to covers (we all know the saying) so I gave this one the benefit of the doubt in spite of some sizeable trepidation. Bad move. Really bad move. I really love Night of the Living Dead - the remake is easily one of my favourite zombie movies (don't get me wrong, the original is a classic, but the remake stands better for repeated viewing in my books) and a large amount of what has spun from it in terms of literature has made for really good reading. This however, is a complete travesty.

Barbara's Zombie Chronicles takes place five years after the original Night of the Living Dead, and seems to completely ignore everything that came from Dawn and Day (aside from little nods – but nothing tangible in terms of continuity). The world is overrun, and somehow only rednecks and crazy people have survived. As implied in the title, the book focuses on Barbara – the traumatized blonde of the 1968 original – who has come full circle since her initial night with the living dead, now toting firearms and sporting tank-tops in a way not seen since Ellen Ripley of the Aliens films. The moment I saw this (roughly five pages in), everything became abundantly clear. This comic was going to be trouble.

As is usually the problem with horror comics, Night of the Living Dead: Barbara's Zombie Chronicles starts off very nicely, with a fairly accurate recap of the horror that Barbara witnessed in the original film. Everyone is recognizable, including (and with amazing accuracy) the Cemetery Zombie, but once Barbara snaps to and yanks us out of the dream sequence, all that comes to an end. Here, you are slapped in the face with the most immediate and serious problem: the artwork is awful. "Scrub-my-eyes-with-steel-wool" awful. Mad Magazine caricatures are more proportionately accurate than the people in this book, and anything that should be scary or horrific inspires about as much reaction as a death in an Argento film; gory, but over the top, cheap and ugly, and doesn't really "frighten" anyone who may be viewing. The zombies that plague the world also don't exactly instil fear the way they normally would. In fact, for being the dominant genus or race they're notably absent for large chunks of the book, more often referred to in overly drawn out anecdotes than actually shown. Okay, sure, the focus here is Barbara, but this is still Night of the Living Dead.

Unfortunately, as the artwork begins it's downward spiral early on in the piece, it takes the story with it, ultimately squandering in a finale that completely throws away any notion of suspension of disbelief. Part of the charm and intrigue permeating Romero's original trilogy was the fact that no-one could give a solid answer as to why the dead were returning to life. Night of the Living Dead: Barbara's Zombie Chronicles goes right ahead and does that for you, and the result is worse than what Day of the Dead: Contagium offers up. Chronicles decides to run with the "cosmic radiation from a downed satellite" theory put forth by news reports in the film. All well and good, until you get to the third act and everything packs it's bags for Wackyland. Suddenly, aliens are responsible for the virus, but not just any aliens… zombie aliens! While the idea is great for comics, it really, really, falls flat on it's ugly face here, and immediately yanks you out of any feeling that you may have been reading something from Romero's Living Dead continuity.

Gorehounds don't really have that much to look forward to either. Usually sub par horror comics lean towards the "light on story, heavy on gory" way of thinking; unfortunately a step in that direction may have saved this comic. There is gore and violence, just nowhere near what you'd expect from something involving Romero zombies, and it plays second fiddle to the exorbitant amount of dialogue. Some pages are so packed with words that you forget to look at the pictures they're smothering, and one would be easily forgiven for thinking that they'd momentarily slipped into reading a piece of non-visual prose. A couple of pages in the second and third parts actually managed to elicit a frustrated groan as some of the dialogue is so bad and long winded that it actually feels like a task having to read it. You just want something good to happen!

Unfortunately for us, nothing does, and ultimately the book feels like a waste of time and money. There is some good with the bad though; in spite of having an (awful, confusing, and stupid) open ending, the book sold such poor numbers that the implied continuation never came. At $4.95 U.S. the book is a complete rip-off. Even completists can put their money to better use than wasting it on this shit. Bottom line is, this is an ugly piece of work in just about every way imaginable. Don't even bother.
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