For a little Halloween weekend spooky story review, I picked up American Mythology’s new mini-series Night of the Living Dead: Revenance #1. The premise of the book is pretty simple. It’s the origin story of the main characters of the iconic 1968 movie. Barbra, Johnny, Ben, Tom, Judy and the Coopers are all here. Even Sheriff McClelland makes an appearance. It’s a great idea for a story and probably one even I’ve done a riff on. But the execution of this comic is not great. It’s not bad and definitely worth a pick up, but it misses quite a few beats.
First off, the art is hit or miss. It’s not what I’d call complementary to the visage of the Night of the Living Dead movie itself. It’s cartoonish at times and usually doesn’t capture the likeness of the actors in any meaningful way. The Romero zombies have a certain look and that doesn't carry over here.
The stories for each of the characters are boilerplate. We see a hunter discover a ghoul who lives at the farmhouse and then we even see his dead grandmother (the lady at the top of the steps in the movie). Then, we cut to scenes from the movie with Barbra and Johnny arriving at the cemetery. Except some of the most iconic scenes and lines are skipped. Tom and Judy are written very well—I could hear the actor’s voices in my head reading the lines. However, in multiple appearances we only get the repeated gist that they’re going to the lake to see friends. The Coopers appear briefly, but are almost unrecognizable (I mentioned the art). Harry even considered killing Helen, which was a little out of character, even ifs it was in a flash of anger. And then there’s Ben. Of course, it’s the Beekman’s Diner story. But it goes out of its way to create an unnecessary proto version of the conflict that he’ll eventually encounter at the farmhouse. It all seems contrived. He even meets another black man and his family. Why is this needed? The only really interesting part of the story is the part with Sheriff McClelland. He’s getting reports of something happening—the beginning of the crisis. And this is where the story should’ve gone. This is the origin story—the day before the night, so to speak. But it feels like everyone already gets what’s going on. The ghouls feel like they’re expected by the characters. I would’ve focused on the radio and TV coverage. Anecdotes from characters of things they've seen. The breaking news broadcasts are truly frightening in the movie as it adds a sense or real dread. It’s amplified even more nowadays as we live in the 24 hour news cycle. The 1968 setting elevates the importance of the conflicting messages, speculation and government actions. Heck, why not even include something related to the Venus probe? Or even the cemetery zombie?
The pacing of the comic is very good. I could almost hear the movie’s soundtrack playing as each scene unfolds. The only exception to this would be the Ben scenes. Again, it just didn’t fit with the Duane Jones version of Ben. If anything, this Ben felt more like the 90’s remake with Tony Todd.
As I said, the comic is an interesting read and it’s important to support these licensed books if you want to see them continue. There are lots of covers to pick from—including the one I grabbed with one of the scariest moments of the movie depicted. Pick it up at your local comic shop or online. For all it’s flaws, you’ll get one take on how these great characters came together.
My score: Two ghouls and a few extra organs out of five.