When there's no more room in Hell, Steve Niles will walk the Earth---doing a panel-for-panel redraw of George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." If you're reading this, chances are you have an insatiable appetite for the Dead, and the very prospect of the prolific, imaginative Niles (who turned out the thin but entertaining "30 Days of Night") paired up with Romero's classic flesh-eaters makes you hungry. Hungry, if not for brains, then at least for a rousingly good graphic novel with ample amounts of blood, gore, brains, fear, loathing, and of course zombies.
If that's what you're looking for, then you've come to the wrong place.
I had just gleefully plucked up a copy of Anchor Bay's lavish "Dawn of the Dead Ultimate Edition" DVD set, and so my guard was down as I wandered into that wretched hive of scum and villainy, my local comics shop. That's exactly how guys get it in zombie flicks---they go into the dark warehouse without the shotgun, without a flashlight, totally unprepared. In seconds I was overpowered by the blood-red cover of "Dawn of the Dead", captivated by the slack, staring eyes of a zombie, its hungry eyes devouring me from the cover, staring out of a crowd of the undead, their hands pressed up to tear my face off and devour me alive.
In other words, I was dead meat.
By the time I was infected---meaning, by the time I had bought the thing and taken it home with me---it was all over. Far from being thrilled, nervous, or satisfied, I felt bored, disappointed, and cheated. Worst of all, as I turned my blank-eyed, slack-jawed face up to the sky, I had nobody waiting with a shotgun to put me out of my misery.
What do you get? 1) A panel-by-panel reshoot of "Dawn" comprising three "issues"---literally a redraw of the movie, from the frenzy at the newsroom, to the grisly raid on the Project, to the flight to the mall, and back onto the whirly-bird. If you've seen "Dawn'", then you know what you're getting---and you're getting no more than that. 2) A quick intro blurb by George Romero---he's getting royalties so you'd think he would give us something juicy, but it's barely a paragraph with a note of thanks to the design team---don't blink or you'll miss it. 3) A few pages of stills from the movie. Wow.
Now, if you're like me, even the idea of a strict reshoot of "Dawn of the Dead" in graphic novel form---with Niles at the helm---sounds intriguing. But sadly, Niles is so slavish in following the original film that there's absolutely nothing of interest here, no risks taken, no funky little sideroads explored. It was so dull that I dozed off about midway through, and finished the thing the next morning.
The artwork is slightly amusing, though---artist Chee missed his calling doing airplane safety-pamphlets. The artwork here looks like it has uniformly been culled from the illustrations you can find in any 747 magazine holder, which to me (sicko that I am) is blackly funny. Imagine seeing those funny , unreal cartoon passengers sliding off a yellow airplane escape slide, being chased by the hungry living dead (drawn in the same style), and you pretty much have the artwork of "Dawn of the Dead."
Chee shoves the pedal down hard when it comes to the gore, but frankly---it's just too over the top and cartoonish to have much of an effect, and it's certainly not worth the price of admission. When Chee's red stuff starts flowing and viscera starts flying, it's not Gray's Anatomy---it's more like your mom's week-old lasagna. If that does it for you, dig in.
The three issues bound here are also extremely bare-bones, so even some of the signature scenes from the movie---the zombie Hari-Krishna, for instance, who just makes a cameo appearance here---are cut from the comic. The only thing you get here that you won't get from Romero's classic is a single panel of an undead Elvis impersonator---great for a giggle, but not worth the cover price.
There are fresher corpses in the graveyard, folks. Pass.