Aaron Thomas Nelson and Mathew Reynolds

Arcana Studio
Graphic Novel, $14.95, 122 Pages
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Review by Darkeva

There’s no shortage of zombie material out there – books, magazine articles, films, video games, comic books, and so on. There are even spoofs of it that do quite successfully, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which is slated for a big screen adaptation soon). And the success of AMC’s television show, The Walking Dead (also adapted from a series of graphic novels) means that we’ll be seeing these creatures for a long time to come. Although the ubiquity of vampires is still very much in effect, for a few years, it felt like everything was coming up vampires, and while the monsters of the fanged variety remain as popular as ever and with a huge following, it seems like even they’ve taken a back seat to zombies, who are thriving in the YA market (just look at the recent success of Jonathan Maberry’s teen zombie series, which started with Rot & Ruin).

With so much zombie material on the market, it’s easy to get lost in the fold, and even harder for an author to stand out now – there’s a lot to choose from, and books sometimes have a hard time gaining as much success as their screen rivals, TV, films, and video games. But graphic novels are an excellent medium for zombie storytellers to explore, not only because when done right, the format lends itself well to telling a great story, but also because while there are numerous zombie comics, there are very few that readers consider at the top. Marlow, by Aaron Thomas Nelson and Mathew Reynolds, should definitely rank high. If you’ve never heard of this series before, I urge you to check it out, as I found it to be exciting, fresh, and very cool (and that’s saying a lot, as I’m not the biggest fan of zombies).

The story begins with the main character, Marlow, who is on a mission by a pharmaceutical company to go to Romania and save Dr. Arcos. The doctor and pharmaceutical company created the nanotech that turns people into zombies. Marlow was a great test subject, a warrior who Arcos thought could become immortal, and while that’s partly true, he’s still a zombie and without a liquid ‘cure,’ he can’t control himself or think straight and does zombie things, namely eating and infecting as many people as he can. In exchange for providing him with this ‘cure,’ the pharmaceutical company gets Marlow to go on missions for them.

For this particular mission, Marlow enlists the help of Conrad, a boxer; Rox, an ex-Marine who can break into just about anything, physical or electronic; and Specs, the tech geek.

Arcos has his own agenda for creating the zombie-causing nanotechnology, and the story just keeps getting more interesting until the end of the issue. The plot thickens in part two, River of Symbols, in which things revolve around Marlow, who thinks he has gone AWOL in the jungle. His focus is very much on wanting to reunite with his daughter, which isn’t exactly a possibility for a zombie, even a “controlled” one like Marlow.

With a monk’s help, he discovers a fruit that grows on a specific tree someplace remote, and it keeps him human as long as he eats it so he repays the villagers by protecting them. Things change when a warlord picks Marlow up and says his daughter paid him to bring Marlow home. While his teammates from the previous issue look for Marlow, he ends up in a Vietnamese jail.

There are more twists and turns in this issue, and it lends itself to all the immediacy of a film, having a very cinematic quality in that you’ll be so surprised by the time that you’re done as the story tends to fly by, but has a satisfying resolution. The artwork in both issues is excellent, and again, it’s always nice to encounter works of zombie fiction that do things a little differently and give a unique hook.

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