Dead of Winter #3
Kyle Starks (writer), Gabriel “Gabo” Bautista (illustrator), Crank! (letterer)
When thinking about zombie narratives, images of the CW’s iZombie or Fox’s the Walking Dead come to mind simply because both shows reuse tried and true pieces of zombie narrative. The Zombie Gait, the contagion of the zombie bite, or even how to kill a zombie (you destroy the brain). Because of these tropes, we expect zombies to behave and exist in very niche ways, like their staggered walk, their stilted speech filled with grunts and groans, and their rotting flesh. Since these are tropes that frequent zombie narratives in popular culture today, it’s good to know Oni Press offers its own take on the traditional zombie narrative.
Dead of Winter is a comic series that focuses on a band of humans and their dog trying to survive amidst a zombie a-paw-calypse, and the creative team of Kyle Starks and Gabriel Bautista make Dead of Winter more accessible to those of us that are a bit more squeamish and rely on less realistic art styles to be able to fully immerse ourselves within zombie comics. While this comic is by an American press, the art style becomes incredibly reminiscent of Georges Remi’s Belgian Tintin comics with its linework as well as how the characters are rendered. In Remi’s work, the facial features of all the characters become more and more abstract and yet we know that the characters are human. The same occurs here with Bautista’s renditions of the humans. We know that they’re human, it’s evident with the decisions that the characters make, particularly the Mall Santa, and yet they’re cartoon-y enough to suspend our belief that these are hyper-realistic characters. Because of this high level of abstraction, Bautista’s cartoon-like effect with the artwork makes it easier to handle some of the gorier scenes that pop up throughout issue #3, like when Good Boy Sparky dismembers a gang of zombies with a katana.
While I did not have the pleasure of reading the first two issues of Dead of Winter, issue #3 becomes rollicking fun as rivalries and antics emerge between the main characters, especially when Forest Plum, the alcoholic Mall Santa, creates dissent amongst the group through his questionable Zombie Survival Tactics. Through creating this dissent of questionable survivability, the creative team focuses on what makes the relationships between these characters difficult rather than creating dissent through the love triangle trope that becomes exhausted in many speculative fiction narratives. The comic itself is super fun and super lighthearted despite its content, but one of the biggest drawbacks is how skewed the narrative becomes through its underrepresentation of female characters. Despite the cast list at the beginning of the issue stating that a character by the name of Annaleigh Chan is featured, issue #3 only mentions her in passing (Carla states that they’re all going to die like Annaleigh) and Carla falls back onto the assumption that all female characters require consolation. Gabriel, who can be assumed to be a romantic interest for Carla, begins to console her – and not with Sparky. Instead, Gabriel reassures Carla that they’ll be fine, that they’ll survive, and so on as Carla descends into mini-hysterics. It’s not until the zombie horde finds our characters in the mall that Carla becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Overall, the issue isn’t all that Intense™ nor does it become too liberal with its use of gore; instead it becomes super cute and super fun. If you like the sound of cuter zombie narratives or even horror that doesn’t focus too much onto the monster as an overbearing force within the narrative, Dead of Winter is a series worth investing in.