by Max Brooks and Ibraim Roberson
144 pages, Three Rivers Press
Review by Hereward L.M. Proops
Zombies seem to have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during the noughties. Countless films, videogames and books about the walking dead have been released and the shambling hordes have well and truly shuffled their way back into the public consciousness. The most successful and critically acclaimed zombie writer of recent years is undoubtedly Max Brooks, son of legendary film maker Mel and author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. Brooks’ writings have been lauded on both sides of the Atlantic and devoted fans have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Recorded Attacks, a collaboration with graphic novel artist Ibraim Roberson.
Taking the premise that zombie outbreaks have occurred throughout time, Recorded Attacks details twelve incidents of zombism from different periods of human history. Starting with Neanderthal man squaring off against the festering foe, we are also treated to zombies in Ancient Egypt, Roman Britain, Feudal Japan and the Cold War Soviet States. Though not as lengthy or immersive a read as World War Z, this graphic novel is both entertaining and chilling. Roberson’s crisp, clean artwork shows the zombies in all their decomposing glory and the sequences of action are wonderfully conveyed. The battle between a legion of Roman Centurions and 9,000 ghouls is fantastically well portrayed, no doubt aided by Brooks’ punchy text that suggests an air of menace without dominating the panels.
What has always separated Brooks from other writers of zombie fiction is how seriously he takes his topic. There is no room for comedy in his world of the undead. This rather dour approach may be a bit much for some, especially those who expect their graphic novels to be light-hearted romps. Similarly, Roberson pulls no punches with his illustrations. Slavering zombies tear bloody chunks of flesh from their victims. The undead themselves are stabbed, burnt, shot, disembowelled and decapitated. This is not a comic book for children or the faint of heart.
It’s not all blood and gore. Just as Brooks mercilessly dissected the post-9-11 mindset in World War Z, here he examines the darker elements of human history with the aid of zombies as a narrative device. Through this twisted lens we are given views of the cruelty of slave ships, the brutal suppression of the slave revolt on St Lucia in the nineteenth century and the sick medical experiments carried out during World War 2. Interestingly, the addition of zombies does not trivialise or detract from the horrors of such real events. Instead, Brooks shows us that throughout history mankind has been responsible for the most barbaric and inhumane of acts. The real enemy is not the virus that creates zombies, but man himself.
Once again, Max Brooks has given us another terrifying glimpse of a world where the dead walk and feast on the flesh of the living. Like the movies of George Romero, Brooks uses zombies to comment on the ills of society and this elevates his work above the standard horror fare. The stomach-turning illustrations and extreme content of this graphic novel will certainly put a number of readers off. Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll find a rewarding read with plenty of bite. Highly recommended.
Hereward L.M. Proops