Scientists are trying to discover a cure for it, grocery store employees are trying to survive it, and a pair of Secret Service agents are just trying to figure out what the hell is going on. The living dead infection is spreading in the ten new #2 issues of Double Take’s Ultimate Night of the Living Dead comic book universe, and in this second round of storytelling, the writers continue to crank out original content set in George A. Romero’s beloved Night of the Living Dead world.
When readers turned the respective final pages of the first ten issues of Ultimate NOTLD back in September, they saw Evans County, PA, in the early stages of the zombie uprising. Alongside new characters, familiar faces from Romero’s film popped up on the panels, including surviving siblings Johnny and Barbara, the weary Ben, and the overtasked Chief McClelland (of “They’re dead… they’re all messed up” fame), who appears frequently as he drives around Evans County in an attempt to keep the living dead from chowing down on those he’s sworn to protect and serve. With the entertaining introductions in the rearview, Double Take’s creative team toss aside their shovels and bring in the excavators to really open up the stories and further explore their eclectic characters in the second issues.
Ranking high on that list of characters are Secret Service Agents Clancy and Stuart, the protagonists of Jeff McComsey’s Z-Men (now being developed as a feature film by Lionsgate). Sent to Evans County by President Lyndon B. Johnson himself, this odd duo are just plain fun to follow, whether they’re giving each other crap in the car or taking aim at approaching ghouls. McComsey writes them as a believable “buddy cop” relationship that offers ample opportunity for one-liners and headshots.
Like Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, little Lisa in Michael Coast’s Home continues to make quite an impression by saying whatever is on her mind and spewing out profanity-laced jabs at her parents and brother without any consequences. They can’t understand her “baby talk”, allowing readers to share in the joke of her secret sinister side. Her dry humor amplified by the all too cheerful characters around her, Lisa continues to steal every panel she’s in and should make for quite an adversary to any zombie that sees her as their next meal.
Meanwhile, Dr. Grimes easily earns the award for being the biggest badass scientist in recent memory. Whether he’s examining parasites in Slab or making quick life-or-death decisions in Medic, Grimes’ no-nonsense approach to stopping the living dead makes for an engaging read.
There are plenty of twists to be found in this round of #2 issues. Rather than retread John A. Russo and Romero’s brilliant Night of the Living Dead, Bill Jemas and company have traveled well into original territory here, with sprinkles of sci-fi and some pretty damn surprising moments making for more than a few double take reading experiences. Stealing the show story-wise and perhaps offering the biggest anticipation for issue #3 is the second issue of Spring (written by Jenn Sodini, John Flynn, and Jemas), which takes a welcome detour from the rural living dead landscape and has an atmosphere akin to an episode of Lost or The Twilight Zone.
If you’re still on the fence about taking the plunge into the world of Ultimate Night of the Living Dead, this second round of stories should have enough clout to push you over to the “read” side. Much more than “just another living dead comic”, this series really strives to focus on the humans first and the zombies second, all the while wrapping both sides in an increasingly intriguing story with plenty of bite.