DCEASED VOLUME 1 / AUTHOR: TOM TAYLOR / PUBLISHER: DC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
More than a few years late to the party, DC finally unleash their own take on Marvel Zombies. Infected after being kidnapped by Darkseid and experimented upon in Apokolips, Cyborg finds himself Patient Zero in an epidemic which threatens to destroy the world. This technologically-spread virus (think Stephen King’s Cell meets 28 Days Later) turns anyone who comes into contact with it into a bloodthirsty, malevolent rage-zombie. And it’s spreading fast.
Tom Taylor merges bloody zombie horror with the superhero genre masterfully, ending the first of his six issues on a shocking twist that promises readers nobody is safe from his zombies. And the rest of the book more than delivers on that promise, with the fight for survival quickly turning into a desperate battle from which few are likely to escape. Only Superman and Wonder Woman seem immune, but even they are outnumbered by a rapidly growing horde which takes in members of their friends and family at an alarming rate. DC’s heroes are often referred to in the same cadence as actual Gods; what happens when the most powerful men and women on Earth suddenly turn against us? The results aren’t pretty.
The art by Trevor Hairsine, Neil Edwards, Stefano Gaudiano, Rain Beredo and Ben Abernathy is equally unsympathetic of its heroes. The book is shockingly gory in places, rarely flinching from the bone-crunching, flesh-chewing action; a mainstream superhero story hasn’t been this nasty since the original Marvel Zombies.
Still, there’s an inevitability to this kind of Elseworlds story that even DCeased can’t evade. As iconic and beloved as its heroes are, their deaths count for naught because, well, this isn’t the main continuity, so what does it really matter? All shock tactics ultimately wear off, and so do Taylor’s, leaving audiences numbed to the book’s nihilism and nastiness. With a sequel (or spin-off) already in the works, there’s a sense that DCeased is just another cog in the machine, ready to spin itself to breaking point until no-one cares any more (see also: The Batman Who Laughs).
But this first book is a beauty, and a work of jarring superhero horror that succeeds in spite of its predictability and lack of originality. It may have arrived late to the party - wearing someone else’s costume, no less - but it’s such a well done and morbidly good time that we can’t help but love it.