October 16, 2010

ZOMBIES: A Record of the Year of Infection (Review)


ZOMBIES: A Record of 
the Year of Infection (2009)

Writer: Don Roff
Illustrator: Chris Lane

Chronicle Books: 2009


4 / 5 zedheads

As an illustrated account of the zombie apocalypse, ZOMBIES: A Record of the Year of Infection makes one hell of a gory coffee-table book.

Although presented as the post-apocalyptic journal of one Dr. Robert Twombly, a blood specialist and amateur artist, ZOMBIES is actually written by Don Roff and illustrated by Chris Lane. The book is designed to appear like a large sketch pad that Dr. Twombly has converted into a hand-written and hand-drawn journal to document a world ravaged by the undead. Through text, scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, and full-page watercolour illustrations, readers take a journey with Twombly through the Pacific North West and Western Canada as Twombly attempts to capture snapshots of the world, no matter how violent and gory, and reflect on the living nightmare that is day-to-day living among the hungry dead.

While there is nothing wrong with the story told in the pages of ZOMBIES, the story is a fairly standard zombie plot. Outbreak begins and survivor observes the carnage from a safe location. Survivor escapes and meets up with different groups of other survivors on his journey, yet through the folly of man's inhumanity, social breakdown, and overwhelming odds, the best laid plans of mice and men quickly go awry. It's a satisfying and familiar story.  Except for proposing a very intriguing and unique cause for the zombie infection, Roff's story on the page is very familiar; it's the pages themselves that are the real prize of the book. 

ZOMBIES is clearly an art book. Full page illustrations of gory zombies, close-up studies of gnarled corpse faces and the desperate faces of the survivors they hunt, simulated news clipping and email pages -- all come together to create a very visual and immersive experience. I found myself more interested in pouring over the images than the text. Like me, you'll find yourself thumbing through it again just to admire the art by Chris Lane. Lane manages to create very skilled paintings and sketches that balance the amateur and rushed quality of Twombly's situation while also putting forth work that shows Lane has zombie art chops. It's a book you can leave on your coffee table to intrigue or horrify your guests (depending on their tastes).

I really enjoyed experiencing ZOMBIES. I doubt it's a book I'll reread very often, but it is an art book that I will turn to from time to time when I need to satisfy a hunger for zombie art that is visceral and wet.

Sample ZOMBIES: A Record of the Year of Infection by reading the first 20 pages for free at SCRIBD