The Zombie Hunters by Jenny Romanchuk
|Book Name:||The Zombie Hunters|
|Genre(s):||Comic Book / Horror / Zombies|
When one writes a story involving zombies, the preferred setting is one where the dead have not only come back to life, but have also taken over the world in rather swift and efficient style for shambling corpses with absolutely no coordination or skills with heavy weaponry and politics. It sets up people not as the dramatic heroes who can retake their world piece by piece, like with an alien invasion, but rather as ragged survivors who’ve pulled through thanks in part to cooperation and just plain old blind dumb luck. These survivors are usually forced into a meager, bare-bones existence where the most basic necessities are rare commodities and everyone lives in fear of not only the encroaching dead, but also of roving bands of rednecks (as it seems every redneck somehow survives what the military does not) who are less interested in rebuilding society than they are in rape and plunder. I think I made that point quite clear in my last review.
In short, mankind is often forced to return to our oldest ways of life: small, fortified villages built more around function than form and strict regulation of all things. But even if the people in this village can sustain themselves on the tried-and-trued methods of farming, what about the things they can’t make anymore? The things that could only be produced in more advanced cultures? Ones that have the means to mass produce medicines, equipment, ammunition and toys. Those things still exist, but in order to harvest them from the countless abandoned pharmacies, supermarkets, malls and homes in the world, one would have to be crazy enough to brave the outside world and all the walking dead who are surely looking for someone to cling to and have over for dinner.
Enter The Zombie Hunters, an ongoing web comic series created by former art student (now full-time artist, writer, and producer of her series and several other pieces) Jenny Romanchuk. The setting for The Zombie Hunters is pretty much in line with what one comes to expect from the world of the zombies: the undead have taken over and many humans (in this case: Canadians) are forced to retreat to an artificial island that is home to the Argus Research Campus, or A.R.C. for short, and set up a rather sustainable community there. Survivors fall into two categories: the normal uninfected people, and those who are infected with a dormant strain of the undead plague. These infected people are ones who have come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of either a zombie or someone who was bitten or otherwise infected, and while they are not in danger of suddenly becoming zombies, they are in short cordoned off, given IDs and snazzy armbands to distinguish them, and very strict regulations regarding where they can go, what they can do, and who they can touch. Touching an infected is strictly forbidden, and they’re even regulated to their own part of the camp. In short, these people will live normal, healthy lives until they die, in which case they will become zombies.
The narrative follows a misfit band of these infected who are “zombie hunters” – people who are commissioned to go out and search for supplies that cannot be produced at A.R.C. When we meet our group, they are under the command of one Jenny Romanchuk…and yes the writer is aware of the Mary Sue status, she just, in this case, not only embraces it but makes it her own. Under normal circumstances I too would join in the chorus of face-palming, but Jenny is such a well-written (and foul-mouthed) character that I can forgive her for this. Besides, after all of the hardened ex-Marines and cops I’ve seen recently, it’s nice to see a frail little girl who ends up having to toughen up in order to survive. The rest of her band is, of course, a collection of Jenny’s real-life friends, albeit with either new or exaggerated characteristics. One of my personal favorites is Sammy, the chain-smoking medic who carries a shotgun and grenades, which makes her the most lethal medic to not hang out with doves and use an ubercharge. She’s like if the Medic in TF2 had a clone with the Heavy and had the Soldier raise the resulting offspring. Another one of my favorite members is Charlie: a former zombie who – by the power of SCIENCE – was somehow given enough faculties and intelligence to recognize human beings as people rather than a food group and is actually quite embarrassed of his time as an undead. He’s technically neither zombie nor living, so he goes by the term “half-life”. And on top of that I always imagine him sounding a bit like John Hurt.
Every character has a unique personality and quirk that makes them not only easy to identify, but also pretty damn entertaining and likeable. One of the strongest aspects of the story is the connection we get to each character. And while we know the fate of one character early on (a fate she has yet to fully realize in the story) and we understand how most people in zombie works are eventually chow for the undead, there’s that genuine sense of fear and hope that the worst does not come to pass.
Another thing that makes The Zombie Hunters so good is the varieties of the undead that we see. Seven different types of zombies roam the world; from the generic and horde-minded crawlers to the solitary and stealthy hunters to the pure sadistic berserkers and even a more gentle-minded group called mercies, whom do not so much hunt as follow mortally wounded people and give them a single bite while protecting them from other zombies. The variants I would never want to meet are the basilisks, a type that can paralyze you with their glowing red stare, and the berserkers, who are more than likely a shout-out to the Reavers from Firefly. Out of the seven she has listed, six have made appearances in the narrative to date, and each one has had a rather grand and appropriate entrance. While the spitter and hunter may look like variants that she had copied from Valve’s Left4Dead series, The Zombie Hunters and her notes date to before these games were made.
The early artwork ran the gamut from detailed to doodles, depending on whether the scene was meant to be exciting and dark or comical. After she decided to release the comics as printable books, however, the panels have been redesigned to follow a more uniform, detailed art style that is a perfect atmosphere. I assume some anatomy books must have been looked through for research, because the wounds on many of the zombies are some of the most visceral and realistic I have ever seen in anything related to walking dead comics outside of The Walking Dead. This attention to detail goes beyond the artwork and into the notes available on the website. These notes are broken down into organized articles that detail the world, jobs, zombies, and the virus in general. There’s even a list of the current cast with biographies if you wish to learn more about the crew.
To date, The Zombie Hunters is on going and is currently going through a flashback arc that has lasted from Chapter Five up until the current Chapter Eleven, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as we get plenty of development and an understanding of the world we were thrust into in the first chapter. I must confess that I fell out of reading the comic after I graduated from university. This was not so much due to issues with the story or its creator as I just had no time to sit and read my favorite web comics anymore. There were a few that I had liked and would not mind going back to, and had it not been for a tweet announcing the latest page I may have never given myself the chance to catch up.
In all, if you’re a fan of zombies and are looking for something nice and meaty to sink your teeth into, you could do no wrong with giving The Zombie Hunters a try. The action is great, the characters are engaging, the world is engrossing, and all it takes is just remembering that the comic uploads every Monday (with the occasional Thursday update). It also helps that, as a web comic, it’s a free story, but there is also plenty of merchandise and the option to donate if you feel the urge to open your wallet to someone making their living off entertaining us.
And so like so many strangers in an abandoned farmhouse, here we are surviving week two of Month of the Living Dead. Here’s hoping you’re still with us as we man the guns and try to survive for week three!
Heroes: Jenny gets by with a LOT of help from her friends, and there’s nothing wrong with that when it’s done this well. – 5/5
Villains: While the zombies aren’t traditional villains in the sense that they have a plan, the hordes of undead are truly a great enough threat to make note of. And who says you need a plan to spread misery? – 5/5
Narrative: A rather standard comic format, which works perfectly for a comic. – 5/5
Plot: Outside of surviving, there really isn’t much of an overall plot at the moment, but the small personal plots help give hints as to more intimate threats that could snowball. – 5/5
Science: They can’t cure the zombies yet, but they can turn one of them into someone cultured. – 5/5
World: The desolate wasteland of… Canada. – 5/5
Art: A beautiful, eerie and gritty style that perfectly suits the end of the world. – 5/5