What do you get when you start with a zombie, mix in four Chinese warrior spirits, throw them together in a special forces squad and spice it up with apocalyptic supernatural threats for good measure? Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers! She’s not your average everyday sweetbread-loving zombie. She’s the self-aware, strong-willed leader of the 4 Tigers. She doesn’t want to eat your brains – or even your eyes.
Z-Girl is the creation of illustrator Kirk Manley and writer Jeff Marsick and produced by Studio Z, an independent. They describe it as follows:
Z-Girl and the 4 Tigers is a book about a special ops team lead by a centuries-old female zombie whose teammates are ancient Chinese warrior spirits inhabiting human hosts. Together they take on all manner of monster and demon that threatens humanity. Issue 1 is the first part of a 5-issue arc entitled “Odyssey”, where we explore who Z-Girl is and lay bare the constant struggle she has with her innate zombie nature. Also, the team is starting a man down, so the reader rides shotgun as the Red Tiger spirit’s human host, having been killed in action, seeks out a replacement and the reader gets to see the creation of a new Tiger.
All of this while the team discovers an ancient scroll that just may foretell of the coming Apocalypse.
I had the pleasure of reading issue #1, the first part the Odyssey story arc. It opens with a flashback to 6th century B.C. China where otherworldly threats abound. We’re briefly introduced to Lau Tzu, Z-Girl’s trainer and mentor, as he’s leaving town. The white pages background, typical to most comics, is replaced with an aged look evoking parchment and times long gone by. It’s a device that works well and I expect it will be used as an ongoing artistic background to Z-Girl’s ancient past.
Fast forward to present-day Cambodia. Gun-slinging monkey demons are summoning Shiva to destroy the world. The A-Team would be out of their league, but not the Four Tigers and Z-Girl. Kill the paranormal primates. Stop the creepy chimpanzee cleric. Beat back a Hindu god. It’s all in a day’s work. No Tiger blood was spilled. Not bad considering they started the mission down one teammate. The Red Tiger is still in spirit form looking for a worthy host.
Being a centuries-old zombie has its perks. For one, the senior citizen discounts are pretty good. Even better, you don’t need to deal with chaffing bullet proof vests since conventional weapons can’t kill you. After her run-in with the apes, and their bullets, we can see right through Z-Girl, literally. Upon returning to the headquarters of the Department of Irregular Warfare (DIW), she is able to regenerate and take a pause before the real work begins, based on a scroll recovered during the recent mission.
Issue #1 ends with a mystery to solve and I want to go along for the ride. The illustrations are crisp, clear, and vivid. This review is based on a digital copy. I have to admit, it looks terrific on the iPad. Z-Girl’s foundation is poured on pan-Asian history and mythology and centuries of experience. There’s plenty to provide inspiration for ongoing plotlines. I look forward to seeing where it goes.
As an independent release, Z-Girl is not available at your local comic book shop. Look for Issue #1 on Indy Planet soon. Studio Z will be at the New York Comic Con this October in booth #344.