In the last several years, zombies have shambled their way into popular culture to the point of saturation, but that doesn’t keep me from reading the next zombie novel or watching the latest apocalypse unfold onscreen. My interest, some might say obsession, with zombies has led me to have a slightly more discerning palette. While I may consume undead media like, well, like a ravenous zombie, it takes something out of the ordinary to make an impression. Once you get past the common themes, survivors holed up under siege, survivors fleeing zombies, dealing with infected friends and family, there needs to be a novel twist or unusual plotline for it to be memorable.
Evil Ink Comics has published their third comic, Key of Z, through Boom Studios. The four-issue series recently came to a close and is released this month in full as a trade paperback. In the interest of full disclosure, this review is based on a digital review copy. Having released a science fiction series, Armory Wars, and a music-themed comic, Kill Audio, the Coheed and Cambria frontman, Claudio Sanchez, took on a horror comic along with cowriter Chondra Echert and artist Aaron Kuder. Given Sanchez’s background, it’s fitting that a harmonica is featured on the front cover and plays a key role in the story.
The story kicks off with a flashback to a time when Ewing, our hero hell-bent on revenge, is with his family just as the zombie apocalypse kicks off. The undead serve as a plot device to set the stage for a breakdown of civilization and serve as a backdrop for the central story. We’re treated to Ewing’s inner thoughts as he keeps a journal. Kuder’s use of snippets of yellow-lined note paper is particularly efficient in visually articulating that internal dialogue.
No time is wasted on the grand story of how the apocalypse occurred or the intricate details of what led to a rise of three core groups of survivors in New York. That’s not important. What is important is Ewing’s raison d’etre, his revenge, by which he may find peace.
Perhaps that’s what sets this story apart from most zombie-centered tales. It’s not really about zombies at all. It’s about getting justice and getting even. Zombies are a means to an end, but that end is not just survival. It’s about making sure the other guy doesn’t.
The artwork is appropriately gritty and transitions well to indicate different time periods. The story does jump around a bit. The only complaint I have is that Ewing appears too muscular with veins running through his arms. It’s not a super hero comic. He’s just a man, after all.
In addition to the four original issues separated into chapters, the trade has characters sketches and full pages from Ewing’s journal that are worth reading if you find his character appealing. Though not much of an addition, the extra content is a nice add-on to the series, and may entice those who bought the original issues to purchase the trade as well.