Saturday, October 1, 2022

Double Take Comics Delivers A Robust ‘Night Of The Living Dead’ Expanded Universe

Are you ready for another beloved film franchise to receive the expanded universe treatment so common these days? What about a comic book universe loosely based on the film Night of the Living Dead sound to you?

The zombie obsessives of the world know Night of the Living Dead was one of the original mainstream zombie flicks and franchises before the zombie craze really took over thanks to current properties like The Walking Dead and World War Z. But neither of those properties would likely exist without Night of the Living Dead, which helped invent the zombie genre behind director George A. Romero’s vision. And thanks to the folks at Double Take, his zombie universe is about to get expanded.

For those unaware, Double Take is the comic book imprint of game publisher Take-Two Interactive. While a comic book company owned by a game publishing company creating comics about a beloved film property seems like a recipe ripe for disaster, the project is spearheaded by Bill Jemas, of Marvel Ultimate Universe fame. And put simply, Jemas and his creators deliver.

What Double Take has managed to do, is create a funny, clever, and oddly educational comic book universe. The stories are as easy to consume as fresh human brains. Spruce and sometimes very aware of themselves, these stories remind readers all there is to love about comics. They also build upon that strong foundation with Easter eggs sprinkled throughout with 1960s nostalgia like pages from a TV Guide or parody ads sure to make you chuckle.

So while you’re still in the Halloween spirit, go watch Night of the Living Dead for free on YouTube. Once you’re familiar with the world—or if you want to just dive right in—you can check out the first three issues for free on the Double Take website. The digital reader for their comics makes for a very cinematic experience. Here’s some quick initial thoughts on what the series has to offer.

Rise Vol. 1 Sister’s Keeper

Image via Double Take
Image via Double Take

Rise follows the story of siblings Barbara and Johnny Ozarowski (based on Barbra and Johnny Blair from the film). The setup and dialogue is similar to the film including the classic line “They’re coming to get you Barbara.” The difference is that after Johnny’s knocked unconscious, he isn’t turned into a ghoul; and instead of feeding on his sister, he rescues Barbara from the “ghouls” attacking the farmhouse.

As it were, Barbara and Johnny’s story takes a different turn, as they meet up with a hitchhiker named Amy and the three are taken to University Hospital, where all isn’t as it appears on the surface. The crew gets sedated and held in quarantine by the military. But one of them figures out what’s going on and they develop a daring escape before the quarantine zone is “sanitized” by the U.S. Air Force

Rise was simply the first book I picked up, but it doesn’t seem like a bad place to start your journey. It follows characters (more or less) and events from the movie, and expands on them in an interesting way. The coloring adds some interesting flair to the artwork, including some inspired shading of people’s eyes underneath their glasses. Thanks to the off-color font choice resembling something close to Arial—a non-standard choice for comic book lettering—the dialogue reads and flows well.

Plenty of questions leave me wanting more from this story, like why do the zombies like candy? What’s the deal with Amy and Johnny? Are they high-functioning zombies? In any case, I’m hooked on this new universe and its characters and look forward to reading more

Soul Vol. 1 No Saint’s Day

Image via Double Take
Image via Double Take

Soul follows nicely after Rise, because it continues the story of Ben, our hero from the film.  Unfortunately for Ben, in this story he’s living out his own Groundhog Day nightmare: Live, die, repeat.

He awakes in the cellar, just like at the end of the movie, but instead of being shot in the head, the bullet only grazes him. This sets off a chain of events that leads him to live out his day repeatedly. After several failed attempts, he teams up with the deceased occupants of the cellar Harry and Helen, who may or may not be figments of Ben’s imagination.

This book was a bit out there story wise. It also borrows artwork from Rise for a few pages which is a bit jarring, but other than that the artwork is consistent. Though not as immediately enjoyable as Rise, it’s not without big potential.

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