Writers: Drew Davies, PJ Montgomery, Joseph Glass.
Artist: Gavin Mitchell, Joshua Smith, Marc Ellerby.
The zombie zeitgeist continues to breathe life into itself when the undead go up against their most unlikely protagonists to date: the Welsh.
In the first half of this double comic, indie writers and Valley boys Davies, Montgomery and Glass have reimagined their Rhondda stomping ground as a place where monkeys talk up a blue streak and it is not unusual to see eviscerated flesh eaters roaming at night. Which can be a bit of a pain when all you want to do is drink at the Pick & Shovel. Who said nights in the Valleys were dead?
Enter crowbar-swinging Don Daniels and foul-mouthed simian Kenny. The camo-garbed call centre worker spends his nights slaying zombies, literally with a monkey on his back. While out on patrol the pair reluctantly check out an isolated house in the middle of nowhere to find flesh-eating squatters have scoffed up the inhabitants.
This 12-page instalment is the first of the five-part ‘The Apocalypse Party’ storyline and the character’s banter would not be out of place on such Welsh inspirations as Twin Town or Gavin & Stacey. Interrupting the zombie-killing drama is a scene in the pub where Don’s supporting cast of mates have gathered. The air is thick not with post-smoking ban cigarette smoke but with carefree insults like “knob” and regional dialogue like “ewe” instead of you.
Mitchell’s cartoony art smacks of early Michael Avon Oeming and he sets the pub scene quite devilishly with a customer taking a leak in the middle of the street. But his sunglasses-wearing Kenny steals the show with a combination of his relentless sniping and expressive face. The simian is also proving a hit on Twitter at the moment. Think Brian K Vaughan’s monkey Ampersand from Y: The Last Man, but with Tourette's.
Originally titled Zombie Death Squad, Stiffs is off to an impressive start with clear story-telling, good art and a natural feeling world where you don’t overly question the presence of talking monkeys and walking corpses. But with zombies hogging the limelight at the moment with Zombies vs. Robots, Cockneys vs. Zombies and The Walking Dead TV show now on Channel 5, you have to ask: is there still mileage in the genre for the story to finish or will zombies be out and vampires in when the next Twilight film is released?
Not so much the JLA now but the JLGBT with The Pride, arguably the world’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual super group.
Glass rounds off the book’s final eight pages with three short vignettes. Each is on a different member of the team and the first, ‘It Gets Better’, is the lengthier one and focuses on the gay Superman-esque icon that is FabMan – Tomorrow’s Fabulous Man, Today – who swoops in to save a suicidal teenage boy whose sexuality is about to be outed. The flamboyant hero does this not with a dramatic rescue but with sensible advice and telephone numbers for counselling. We then get the secret origins of the Wolverine-esque White Trash and the crime-busting vigilante Wolf.
Glass and company’s effort to directly tackle what is considered a touchy subject by the mainstream publishers is commendable. To date we have had gay members of teams like Apollo and The Midnighter in The Authority but never a dedicated gay superhero team.
‘It Gets Better’ walks a tightrope above a vat of sugary melancholy but, without spoiling the ending, grounds itself quite squarely without coming across as morally preachy.
However, eight pages is not enough to introduce an ensemble cast of super heroes. The full team may be seen on the cover, but who they are and what they do is never revealed inside. Even FabMan’s name is missing from his own six-page tale. Only dedicated readers are going to check the comic’s Facebook page to find it out.
The art is big and bold, which suits its subject nicely, and has that Saturday morning cartoon feel to it, contrasting nicely with the night-time zombie thriller Stiffs.
Stiffs/The Pride costs £4, plus postage, from http://glassgears.blogspot.com