This isn’t one of your Dungeons & Warcrafts Games, Nerdboy!
With Walking Dead down until February 9, people who still don’t feel entirely swarmed over by zombies have to find their cannibal corpse kicks elsewhere. And while you might not think anything original can be done with the zombie apocalypse, Dynamite’s five-part series, Mocking Dead manages to be a little bit different—and frequently, quite funny. And while the title, art, and genre suggest a certain zombie franchise, this isn’t a direct parody of any one zombie story, but an entertaining comic that draws from the entire genre to tells its own story.
Is it worth the back issues—or the inevitable trade paperback?
Title: Mocking Dead #1-5
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artists: Max Dunbar
First Published: September 2013-January 2014.
When zombies threaten to overshamble the world, the United States government reactivates “Tinseltown,” a secret program designed to develop defenses against threats depicted in fiction. The move reunites socially inept geek Aaron Bunch with former partner turned kickass agent, Vanessa Mailk. When the army screws up an early attempt to contain the undead, Bunch leads Malik on a bizarre quest to find the last surviving copy of a forgotten “70s grade-Z indie: flick, The Mocking Dead. So-titled because its zombies laugh at their prey, the film’s specific details resemble uncannily the contagion that threatens to destroy the world. Might it also hold the cure?
In addition to frequently hilarious character moments and interactions, Lente and Dunbar give The Mocking Dead more nerdy allusions and off-the-wall gags than The Walking Dead has head-shots. Bunch’s e-mailed efforts to track down the Mocking Dead movie contain hilariously inept attempts to hit on his unseen correspondents. We see new takes on how people deal with apocalyptic events—some pull together like affable neighbours, while others seek zombie sex. We get excerpts from old movies and a Green Lantern porn parody. A drug commercial runs an utterly ridiculous, dire warning of possible side effects. Arguments about “fake geek girls” get mercilessly pilloried. Voodoo practitioners protest the misuse of the word zombie.
But these aren’t just incidental references or silly jokes. Nearly everything we see or hear, however tangential or random it may seem, has some impact on the story. If you have any affinity for the zombie genre and you want to check out Dynamite, this may be the comic for you.
I’ll accept the ridiculous explanation for the origin of zombies, because it suits the comic’s absurd tone. I also expected some twists in the final issue. Too much, however, rests with an underdeveloped, unexplained minor character and, in the end, I felt more like I’d been subjected to a Shaggy Dog Story than a viable conclusion.
”You don’t have ‘integrity,’ Bunch! You have a social disorder!”
Originality: 2/6 Zombies, again? The apocalypse again? The funny apocalypse again? The funny zombie apocalypse, again? It’s not even new territory for Lente, who has worked on Marvel Zombies.
Nevertheless, he manages some fresh ideas here. Most notably, The Mocking Dead gives us “Tinseltown,” the secret government project that planned against fictional threats. The conclusion begs for a sequel. I hope, if the comic continues, they move beyond zombies. “Tinseltown” itself could be comic gold.
Artwork: 6/6 Just as the story keeps one eye on The Walking Dead while parodying the entire genre and developing its own, idiosyncratic story, the grayscale-and-red artwork pays tribute to the hit zombie franchise while depicting its own crazy, infected world.
Story: 5/6 The plot is choppy, but it makes effective use of nearly every element it introduces.
Characterization: 4/6 Save for the two central characters, who receive some effective development, stereotypes and caricatures inhabit the world of The Mocking Dead. They are well, used, but not deep.
Emotional response: 5/6 Lente isn’t afraid to be silly, and I often found myself laughing at these five issues. The banter between Bunch and Malik is worth the price.
In total, The Mocking Dead receives 31/42