Eibon Press’ ZOMBIE comic is a work of art.
Lucio Fulci’s 1979 DAWN OF THE DEAD rip-off/companion flick/prequel ZOMBIE (aka ZOMBI 2, ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS) has been watched, re-watched, celebrated, written about, discussed and worshiped around the world for decades. In the confines of Italian cult film adoration, it’s a standard, sung so many times that every beat of it is burned into the brain
Nothing new could possibly be said about this film. Nothing could be added to further enrich or alter its enduring legacy.
Turns out the answer is…yes.
For the past two weeks we’ve penned much about the launch of artist/writer/visionary Stephen Romano and his partner, Rotten Cotton‘s Shawn Lewis’ new horror comics imprint Eibon Press, an entity designed to ostensibly celebrate the golden age gore operas made by Fulci and his producers in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
The company’s first outing is indeed an attempt to adapt ZOMBIE.
And my God…is it incredible.
Outside of Fulci’s leering direction, Fabio Frizzi’s pulsing music and Gianetto De Rossi’s iconic gore stings, ZOMBIE is admittedly rather flat and no one would ever accuse it of being literary. Dardano Sachetti and Elsia Brigantti’s script is pretty base and ample odd, with little attempt to deepen its character drawers or flesh out the story’s gruesome mythology.
Which is of course the first thing Romano corrects. And he does so without fucking with the essence of ZOMBIE at all. He just makes it wilder, wider and most wonderfully…he makes it emotional.
The book begins with a crying nude woman facing off against a ceremonial dagger on an alter in what looks like some sort of Boschian Hell, while shrieking voodoo priests tear up living people, including babies and the living dead swam en masse. A narrator speaks in boxes, the voice belonging to a one Dr. Menard, a character obviously in the thralls of some sort of stressful state, speaking on “the beginning” of an outbreak, before snapping awake from his nightmare. This bloody montage cuts to what is the true opening of Fulci’s film, with Menard blowing away a shrouded ghoul and, with revolver still smoking, stating:
“The boat can leave now…tell the crew.”
Over the next 22 pages that make up this premiere issue, Romano and his team (including Michael Broom, Derek Rook, Gerry Coffey and Fatboy) turn ZOMBIE into a bloody, illustrated fever dream filled with flesh eating and melancholy, where even peripheral characters manage to have their moment of thought and introspection before having their faces ripped off. Case in point, the harbor cops who in the film, burp out some superfluous dialogue before meeting the obese ghoul in the bowels of the ship in NYC. Here, the first victim muses on the first time he encountered death, a chilling aside that ends in horror when he encounters something worse than death.
And so it goes throughout the book. Romano hits the key narrative points, faithfully realizes the and them takes them further. I love ZOMBIE. But I’ve never found it particularly scary. This incarnation of ZOMBIE however is terrifying and reading it is like re-connecting with an old friend who, in the ensuing years, has become something far more dangerous, complex and evolved.
But outside of the glorious art and tale-telling, Eibon Press and Romano have gone further and released the book in an arresting, limited edition sleeve, with liner notes by Romano inside as well as a gory postcard – one of only 250 if you’re among the first to purchase – signed by Romano himself.
Eibon Press rocks my world and this first issue of the ZOMBIE series is a towering, screaming masterpiece. A work of disarming, dark art.
Stop reading this review and order yours IMMEDIATELY.