“THE WAKING” (Graphic Novel Review)

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Originally published at Fangoria.com on Nov. 20, 2010

THE WAKING, out this coming week from Zenescope Comics, is a cleverly twisted and riveting miniseries combining crime and horror. A routine murder investigation in the heartless big city turns out to be the beginning of a zombie apocalypse in this gripping story, which boasts an engaging cast of characters and impressive artwork.

In this intricately plotted narrative, four worn-out detectives are following two very different murder scenarios. Vanessa Pelagrano and her partner are pursuing a hit-and-run case, while Laurence Williams and his associate examine a robbery/homicide. None of them realize that their cases, though they may appear random, are connected to each other. Their unrelenting investigation will lead directly to a mysterious vagrant who has a corpse locked inside his closet.

The group of detectives soon learn a horrible truth: Vengeance never stays dead. Victims of past crimes are suddenly rising from their graves. These aren’t the usual mindless, slow-moving zombies typically seen in the movies; in this fresh take on the subject, the awakened dead walk the streets in search of those responsible for taking their lives. They are seeking retribution, hunting down those who escaped justice years ago.

With the city in absolute chaos, the detectives are in a race against time to control the riots and mayhem. As the streets descend into full violence, nothing seems capable of stopping the revenge-minded zombies from lashing out with their own brand of justice. While the officers of the law are out risking their lives, the source of the reawakening is sitting inside a jail cell.

The dialogue by writer Raven Gregory is smart and witty. As the first act sets the stage, Gregory focuses solely on character dynamics. Mainly through humorous banter, as the group make jokes at each other’s expenses, the reader gets a perspective on each individual, and Gregory strikes the right balance of humor and his downbeat storyline. Vic Drujiniu’s artwork is stunning, treating your eyes to a wide range of well-drawn facial expressions and stylized pin-up models. The artist illustrates a city with pouring rain and dark shadows; near the conclusion, the flashback panels are drawn in a fluid painted style, with strong grey overtones and blue hues.

After finishing THE WAKING, readers will no doubt have plenty to discuss, as the series is not only entertaining, but gives readers something to think about. Fans of zombies and crime books will definitely want to grab a copy.