REVIEW: The New Deadwardians #2

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The New Deadwardians! You got vampires in my zombies! Zombies in my vampires! You got both in my historical murder mystery drama!

THE NEW DEADWARDIANS #2 (OF 8)
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist. I.N.J. Culbard
Colors: Patricia Mulvihill
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover : I.N.J. Culbard
Editor: Will Dennis
Publisher: Vertigo
Price: $2.99

Previously, in The New Deadwardians: In this alternate historical setting, the Edwardian period of British history gets a little more, well, dead – what with a zombie plague and a vampiric aristocracy. The momentous social change wrought by the varied forms of undead seems to have settled into an uneasy stasis where the Restless (zombies) are kept at bay with fences, while the Young (vampires) go about their aristocratic business. George Suttle is a homicide detective in a city of the undead, which leaves his nights relatively free… until he finds a vampiric victim of murder by means unknown.

DOWNTON ABBEY FOR THE GENRE FAN

The New Deadwardians #2 opens with an autopsy of the fully dead vampire found at the close of issue #1. Curiously, the bloodsucker does not appear to have died from a stake or any other expected methods, leading to a curious case of murder for London’s last homicide investigator. Suttle is a suspicious, icy character well-suited to the investigatory trade. Dan Abnett writes his script with an archly reserved hand that suits the Edwardian period – it’s what I imagine Downton Abbey would be like, if I were to ever watch it (which I will not, due to a dearth of vampires and/or zombies). Suttle is still a bit of a cipher, but with an 8 issue miniseries, there is plenty of breathing room, and it’s not like his very British stiff upper lip lends itself to emotional outpourings anyways. And there is plenty of world-building in this issue – we learn more about the Restless plague and the aristocracy’s decision to go leech, with a very strong sense of the overall decadence and decay resulting from that decision. It is cold, creepy stuff, and Abnett is making the most out of his historical setting. There’s a central metaphor here worth exploring.

A CHALLENGER APPEARS

I hope I.N.J. Culbard some attention from this serious, because the guy is a serious talent. His style is spare if cartoony, which meshes well with the arch tone of the series. He’s able to evoke subtle emotions from his characters’ faces with just a few line changes, breathing a real life into the book. And while the moments are few, when he draws something meant to be disturbing (such as a Restless at full charge), it is truly alarming. And the guy is just killing it on the covers. I’ll ding Culbard for not fully fleshing out his backgrounds, but on the whole, he adds a great deal to the atmosphere of the series. The coloring from Patricia Mulvihill is an asset too; little details such as the colorless pallor and yellow eyes of the Young underscore the otherness of the setting.

OVERDONE UNDEAD?

It’s hard to talk about something like The New Deadwardians without addressing the overabundance of zombie/vampire fiction on the market at the moment. Needless to say, The New Deadwardians is more than another Pride & Prejudice & Zombies-type cash-in. Abnett has really thought out his world, and is inviting his readers into something fresh. Coupled with the art of Culbart and Mulvihill, The New Deadwardians #2 follows through on the promising first issue, earning four out of five stars. If you’re looking for some zombie/vampire fiction but have trouble separating the wheat from the chaff, you could do worse than check out The New Deadwardians.

Rating: ★★★★☆