Story: Mark Kidwell
Art: Jeff Zornow
You know how it’s really hard to recommend The Walking Dead to your friends at this point, because the show is six seasons in and there’s so much to get caught up on? I had that moment when I read the second issue of ’68: Last Rites. Having not read the prior issues, I had the general impression that there’s a larger story going on and the stark knowledge that I’m not really caught up on it. I have a generalized understanding that Image’s ’68 series of miniseries is a half-period piece, half-homage to Night of the Living Dead. It’s set in the same year the classic film took place and revolves around the same notion of a worldwide zombie apocalypse, but also explores larger themes of radical social change, Vietnam, and all the other craziness that disrupted the country at that time. That said, I didn’t get the larger picture of where the characters were at this point or what transpired before.
The bulk of this issue mostly works as a self-contained story, with a woman named Faye in 1968 recounting the story of how her husband died in 1968. This issue is less concerned with the zombie uprising (an issue, but not the main threat) and more with how societal collapse would affect survivors living in the wilderness. Faye and her husband essentially find themselves in odd homages to Deliverance (a 1970 novel and 1972 film which roughly fits the time period) and Sunset Boulevard (a 1950 film, which doesn’t). Kidwell’s script is competent, although the film homages were a little too obvious at times.
An additional distraction is that for a story about the zombie apocalypse, this particular chapter had very little zombie to it. It had some, certainly, and the emotional risks of a zombie-plagued world played deeply into the story’s climax. I suppose as a stand-alone story, the issue worked just fine, though as a new reader, I found myself having that “when do we get to the fireworks factory?” moment. I realize that the fireworks probably came in an earlier issue, but as a new reader, I definitely perceived that something was missing. The story’s larger framing device also left me a bit lost–not having read the earlier issues, I don’t have the context for what’s going on in New York City or Vietnam. A “recap page” would have been helpful here.
Jeff Zornow’s art is also competent, but sometimes inconsistent. He mostly uses a cartoonish style that works well for the story he’s telling, although it’s a bit comically exaggerated at times. His portrayal of the two crazed killers who appear in this story is just a little overdone, making them a appear a little more clownish than terrifying. Contrast this with his drawing of the Flatiron Building in New York, which is superbly detailed. It’s weird how much detail went into a building that appears in two panels, vice the rest of the issue which is in a much simpler (but not bad) style.
This issue is acceptable, but doesn’t present much that we haven’t seen elsewhere in post-apocalyptic fiction, zombie or otherwise. The issue might work better in the larger narrative of the overall series, but this issue doesn’t make the best jumping-on point.
Two Brains out of Five.