The Zombie Nation Book #2: Reduce Reuse Reanimate
Category: Best Graphic Story
I’ve long believed that the low barriers to entry in the realm of webcomics amplify Sturgeon’s Law: everything is crap to about five nines of precision. Even the good ones tend to undergo the same decay that newspaper comics do, only with a shorter half-life, peaking within a few years of inception and then sliding into creative bankruptcy or collapsing under the weight of their own lore.
The Zombie Nation is not one of the good ones. It is astonishingly bad, achieving levels of awfulness thought to be theoretically impossible. One could almost believe that it was supposed to be a parody of a bad webcomic, except that parodies are funny, and this is deeply, painfully unfunny. The weak stabs at humor are equal parts sexist stereotypes and—my favorite—pop culture references. The characterization is limited to broad archetypes like The Wacky One, The Straight Man, The Crazy Ex-Wife. Word balloons are placed confusingly, and frequent typos and homophone errors in the text lend the whole thing a half-assed quality. At least the author can draw competently; it’s too bad he uses his skills in service of such disastrous failed comedy.
The central premise here is that three barely distinguishable bros have been turned into zombies, and now run around doing bro stuff but as zombies. Hilarity does not ensue. It’s not clear what the zombie conceit even adds, since the characters talk and act like normal people—the mindlessness that actually characterizes zombies across their other incarnations is just absent. There are occasional references to the tropes of zombie movies, but references by themselves do not constitute jokes.
Some of the Hugo entries just aren’t to my taste, but I could see how others might enjoy them. The Zombie Nation is different: it’s hard to understand how anyone would think this is one of the best comics of last year. It’s especially damning that this was the only work the Puppies nominated for Best Graphic Story, a category otherwise brimming over with creative vitality. Nominating nothing would have just indicated disinterest; nominating this is a show of active contempt for the medium.