Reviews Dead Kingdom II #1- Once more into the zombie-filled landscape… no Hobbits were eaten in the making of this comic

As Kain and Alice are reunited, the Kingdom is falling into despair. The undead spread through the land, enrolling Kain and his companions back into the fight. On a mission to bring back a weapon that may turn the tide of the invasion, the group will soon realize that something worse than the undead lurks in the shadow.

“Something worse”? No, it’s not a guy with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, but the reveal in this issue marks a turning point for the Dead Kingdom series. The first story arc gave hints and glimpses of something more sinister behind the zombie scourge (there’s a word that doesn’t get used enough these days), but now the curtain has been pulled back.

Etienne Derepentigny is building onto the foundation he laid in the first arc, for a great zombie action story held together by a core group of friends. When we met up with Kain, war veteran and reluctant hero, his overriding goal was to be reunited with his one true love, Alice. That mission accomplished, Derepentigny needed another motivator for Kain & his troupe of elite zombie mulchers. To that end, readers are getting their first full look at the Evil behind the evil, as well as the first major indication that the shambling undead are just a means to an end. From the start, I’ve loved the way Derepentigny builds his characters & pulls them together and, as with the Walking Dead, the story is at its very best when readers are given time with the characters in their few quieter moments.

Likewise, Derepentigny’s artwork helps Dead Kingdom stand out. The first step in that direction was placing the zombie apocalypse in a medieval setting rather than the present day, but I really latched onto his artistic style. Etienne lets his lines hang onto some of the rough edges of a sketch, and that leans into the chaotic tone of the story. He’s also a great hand at letting certain things remain unseen, giving readers a mystery to chew on instead of being led step by step through the story.

There is one page that threw me, just a bit, and that comes in the back half of the issue. The core group of friends are having some banter. The dialogue is entertaining, leaning into the sense of familiarity & camaraderie among them. The layout of the page is set in a series of small panels, where I thought the moment might have been better served in a larger, more open spread. The conversation on the page reminded me of the Avengers’ afterparty in Age of Ultron, but the small panels didn’t work as well for me. A larger spread, with all the friends in view, could have pushed the moment home as it brought the companions & their dialogue closer together. Letterer Jerome Gagnon has done a fantastic job so far, and that minor chance could have given him another chance with some great character work.

Dead Kingdom has been an outstanding series, the first arc focusing on the zombie problem and reinforcing my belief that The Walking Dead didn’t have nearly enough battle axes and war hammers (why worry about shooting a walker in the head when you can just smash it in?). The good news is that if you missed out on the first run, you can hit your local comic shop up for the collected trade, get yourself caught up, and be ready to roll right into volume 2!

Final Score: 11/13

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