Zombie Outlaw #1 Review : by Broken Frontier
I approached Brian J. Apodaca and B. Paul Jordan’s Zombie Outlaw with a toxic bias: I loathe the zombie subgenre with every fiber of my being. It wasn’t always so: for many years, I thought some zombie stories were passable, but lately, the mere mention of the brainless walking dead causes me to twitch and shudder with frustration. I hate zombies.
Thankfully, Zombie Outlaw really isn’t about zombies at all. Rather, it’s a whimsical and humorous tall tale used to satirize the bumbling everyman in life rather than obsessing over the shambling dead as the apocalyptic end of the world swiftly approaches—yawn. This is a book with a whole lot of heart—one that beats with a whole lot of pluck.
The first issue of Zombie Outlaw sets up the book’s three main characters: Will Simers, who is the token brain; Matt Naismith, a nervous nerd; and K.T. Delaney, a strong and sexy young lady with a whole host of suitors after her. The setting is the campus of Irvine State University, where the three aforementioned youngsters are all students. Matt is smitten with K.T.; she’s nice enough to him, but being an introverted geek, Matt doesn’t know how to approach her.
Naturally, he turns to the smartest person he knows—his resident advisor, Will Simers. In exchange for Will’s help, Matt agrees to help him plumb the dark depths of Irvine State’s library in order to locate the remains of an ancient undead cowboy who acted as the savior of old Irvine when it was nothing more than a settlement. This skeleton is the key to making Will’s doctoral dissertation perfect.
As I read Zombie Outlaw, I was consistently reminded of the “Dial ‘Z’ for Zombie” short story from the third installment of The Simpsons’ Tree House of Horrors. Writer Apodaca brings a lot of levity to his story; he doesn’t take himself or what he’s writing too seriously. But he’s also laid out a sweet narrative with a consistent voice; he never breaks from his overall intention to make this book fun and light-hearted. He succeeds—I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it made me chuckle a time or two.
The artwork and colors of Paul Jordan lend themselves perfectly to the mood Apodaca has created. The most memorable details in the book are the characters’ features, specifically their arms. Everyone looks like they were torn from the pages of Archie and then spliced with the DNA of Popeye: the characters’ four-fingered hands and forearms are massive, men and women alike. All of this is infused with the bright life of Jordan’s color palette. This is one vibrant book.
Though a zombie does appear at the end, it’s not exactly a cliché, and so I didn’t lose my head. It would be hard for me to—I liked the goofy and weird adventures of Will and Matt around campus quite a bit. And judging by how the book ended, I have a feeling the adventures are only going to get goofier and weirder. And a fun journey it will be.