Pullbox Reviews: Dead Kingdom #1 – Etienne Derepentigny & Red 5 Comics killin’ zombies old school

Something is attacking the Field Valley, something that destroys whole villages seemingly overnight. The kingdom thinks it’s a plague, but the battle worn Kain knows better. When he and a small group of knights go to investigate all his worst fears are proven true as the dead attack the village. And if they can’t be stopped, they’ll eventually overrun the entire kingdom.

When Kain is drafted back into service, it was just to check up on local villages that had suddenly gone silent. The common belief was that there was a plague about. The Captain in charge of the squad being sent believed that nothing so ordinary as disease was at work and when the brave knights meet their real enemy, the question is raised…

“How do you kill something that’s already dead?”

Dun dun DUUUNNNNNNNN!

Y’know, you’d think that a highly superstitious culture armed with axes and swords would be a little better equipped to handle a zombie outbreak. Luckily for readers of Dead Kingdom, no one’s getting out of this one that easily. Least of all the poor saps marching into the Village of the Damned.

It’s always awesome when you get a comic creator who takes the reigns on both the writing and the art. I get why it isn’t all that common, because it’s got to be a lot of work, but it sidesteps the issue of miscommunication between script and illustration. Etienne Derepentigny takes on the role of over achiever and handles each side of the creative coin without a hitch. The story behind Dead Kingdom opens with a mysterious figure who appears to kick things off. From there, we’re shuffled right into the zombie shambling action and by the end of the first issue we forget that there’s someone apparently behind the mayhem. Supporting characters are introduced, with the battle-scarred veteran Kain taking center stage. Derepentigny lays out the threads that start leading toward emotional ties before he starts ripping people to shreds.

His illustrative style looks rough, all jagged edges and sharp angles. That works great for Derepentigny’s story of the undead sacking a medieval kingdom one remote village at a time. Colors are muted, giving the world a dingy, drab look that fits Dead Kingdom to a tee. Even the sprays of arterial red are toned down, leaving the brightest shades of red to sashes worn by Kain and his fellow soldiers as they march to the rescue of the outlying towns. The overall effect of Derepentigny’s use of color is a tone that stays away from the shiny fantasy setting we often get from Hollywood.

A final shout to letterer Jerome Gagnon. As the only other person allowed to play in Derepentigny’s playground, he pulls off some fine work. Dialogue boxes are alternately low key and understated, getting a job done without distracting from the rest of the page, then cranking up to 11 with some of the sound effects on display. If you’re really paying attention, and you sit very still, you can almost hear the sound of zombie teeth ripping through fragile flesh.

What I really like about Dead Kingdom #1 is that it satisfies an itch I didn’t even know I had. In the genre of zombie horror, pretty much all we see are modern settings. This is a pretty slick change up that takes what we’ve all seen, over and over again ad infinitum, and gives it a bump. The world is small, medieval villages are isolated, with no way to warn the next town about what’s happening aside from sending some poor sap running alone through the forest. With the current success of the movie Prey, reinvigorating the Predator franchise by dropping what we’ve already seen into a less familiar setting, I’m hoping that this trend keeps going. We’ve got a lot of past to cover, and the adage “what’s old is new again” could lead to some great new stories.

Final Score: 11/13

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