War of the Undead

Comics Corner: War of the Undead

By Jeff Johncox

NORMAN, Okla. - So I was watching one of the classic movie channels recently and came upon "Bride of Frankenstein."

I always enjoyed this film, ever since I was little. And the Universal monsters of the 1930s have always kept watch over a special place in my heart, even the Wolfman, who once scared the crap out of me by sneaking up from behind and grabbing my shoulder at Universal Studios Hollywood. I was 21 at the time and jumped in the air screaming like I was five.

Maybe that's why I get such a kick from IDW's "War of the Undead."

I've reviewed other horror comics, and I'll review more in the future, but I doubt any will ever be quite like "War of the Undead."

Think "Dawn of the Dead" meets "The Longest Day," then throw in almost all those '30s Universal monsters.

It's got zombies, Nazis, evil scientists, the Mummy, Frankenstein's monster, Dracula's wives (and a quick cameo by the dark lord's bones) and a bunch of other fun things. It's what I imagine Quentin Tarantino's and Robert Rodriguez' "Grindhouse" is going to be like when it hits theaters.

There's so much thrown in, but, believe it or not, these evil Nazi scientists and their army of the undead (How cool is that to say?) don't clutter up the story.

And please, don't take this seriously. This is just a ride.

Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan, best known as Steve-Dave and Fanboy, respectively, from the Kevin Smith films, have brought the humor of View Askew with them to this book. It's entertaining, witty and so out of the box it's hard not to love.

And it's not an in-your-face offensive comic like a lot of people are putting out now. A lot of comics in this genre try to be funny or interesting by throwing so much over-the-top and controversial content at you you end up reading it like watching a car accident. You can't look away but you feel kind of dirty.

Not with "War of the Undead," though. It's fun to read. It's got some sicko moments (especially when our protagonist in the first issue, Nazi officer Schenker, is charged with removing Hitler's - how do I put this delicately - manhood), but is otherwise just a B-movie in comics form with about everything thrown in. I even think a kitchen sink was involved.

Our story takes place as the Russians are invading Berlin. Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide, and a mysterious man calls Schenker up and gives him his disgusting instructions.

Once Schenker has "the package," he is met by a decrepit-looking old officer named Jabs, who has a mummy sidekick/bodyguard/pilot. And the old guy wears a giant amulet which we later learn possesses extraordinary powers.

On the way to meeting the mysterious scientist, Schenker, Jabs and the Mummy stop off in Transylvania, where zombies are attacking Dracula's castle. Dracula's wives are distracted, and so the Nazis are able to escape with their master's bones.

Like I said, pretty much everything imaginable is thrown into this out-of-the-box horror story.

Everything from Johnson's dialogue to Flanagan's art is campy and fun.

From the first page, which features a giant Hitler head with a swastika above it, surrounded by flames, you know the tone of the comic.

But the best part isn't until the end, when you see what the mysterious evil Nazi scientist has been working on lately while Jabs was delivering Schenker and Hitler's family jewels.

"War of the Undead" is a very fun read, and I highly recommend it to fans of the View Askew films and horror fans.

If you like monsters, and it really doesn't matter which ones, this book probably has your favorite in it somewhere.

I mean, a gorilla with a Nazi armband and an exposed brain in a bubble even makes an appearance.

Next week: Talking with DC scribe Judd Winick about "Green Arrow," "The Trials of Shazam!" and the future of the DC Universe.

Jeff Johncox writes for The Norman (Okla.) Transcript.

Fanged Films

USA, 1978
It's Alive II
USA, 1957
Blood of Dracula

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?