Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by James Farr
Published by Epic Level
It’s really difficult these days, I don’t care how skilled of an author you might be, to write an original story set amidst a zombie apocalypse. It seems these days almost everything’s been done to death (pun intended). The best you can hope for is a story that can put a new spin on things and entertain your viewer/reader as long as possible.
Perhaps that’s why James Farr’s online Xombie cartoon, done entirely in Flash and broken up into 5-minute webisodes, has been such a huge success; instead of telling how the human race deals with the uprising of the dead, he sets the events deep into a world overrun by zombies, telling the story of a little girl, Zoe, and her quest to reunite with her parents.
Yeah, I know, it doesn’t sound like a balls-out horror story, but that’s because it isn’t. It’s funny, touching, full of action and possesses an unblinking eye to all forms of zombie carnage. The best thing about the new book, Xombie: Dead on Arrival, is that you don’t have to be familiar with the webisodes to enjoy it as it starts the story from the beginning all over again. First an online cartoon, for a while a possible movie, and now a graphic novel (in the truest sense, I think); I bet Farr must be getting sick of this story by now!
What really sets Xombie apart from other zombie tales, however, is Dirge. A zombie through and through, for some reason Dirge retained his humanity when he was resurrected and has been able to control his desire to eat people because, unlike the shambling killing machines that now rule the planet’s surface, he thinks it’s just plain wrong. Along with zombie dog Cerberus, who still likes to eat people but is well trained and will only do so on command, he sees it as his mission in un-life to get the young, fragile and heart-wrenchingly cute Zoe back to human civilization after she stumbles into his graveyard one night, having awoken on the nearby beach suffering form some serious amnesia.
Even though Dirge is cynical and not too thrilled with being nothing but a rotting pile of flesh waiting to happen, the sudden appearance of Zoe is enough to help him realize, reluctantly at first, that maybe there is something to keep on living for. Through humor and horror Farr conveys these emotions in a very real way, painting Dirge as a true hero from head to toe, and not just because he can beat the shit out of zombie clowns with a shovel he nicknamed Faust.
Xombie: Dead on Arrival is presented as a graphic novel, but in fact it’s more the latter than the former. Instead of what you’d think of as a standard graphic novel, which would essentially be a story told through comic book panels; the layout here is that of an illustrated book more than anything else. Said illustrations are actually shots of action that could’ve been pulled directly from the online cartoon that made Xombie so popular originally. I appreciated it a lot more, actually, because Farr’s wit and writing style is very addictive and makes for a fast-paced, fun read. Though the webisodes will always be the primary medium for Xombie, those unfamiliar with the world of Dirge and his traveling companion will be able to be that much more engrossed via Xombie: Dead on Arrival.
The only thing negative there is to say about the book is that it seems too short, and it gives away the ending of the series, which followers of the online episodes might find frustrating; but hey, we know it’s gotta end sometime, right?
If you’ve never seen the show, hit the official Xombie page to become acquainted. When you become like the thousands of other Xombie fans out there who want more than just the show, get this book and appreciate that finally someone has done something fun, cool, and original with a zombie apocalypse.
4 1/2 out of 5
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