After picking up the hardcover at Wizard World Philly, I finally got to read through the first volume of Awakening, Archaia’s take on the zombie thriller.
Awakening Volume One
Writer: Nick Tapalansky
Artist: Alex Eckman-Lawn
At the Archaia panel at Wizard World Philly last month, it only took two words from writer Nick Tapalansky to pique my interest in Awakening: “Zombie noir.” The zombie genre is getting more and more crowded in all forms of entertainment, particularly video games and comic books, and because of that, a lot of books featuring the brain-craving undead can easily get lost in the shuffle. That doesn’t mean that there’s not room for another interesting, dark, unique zombie story to be told, and Awakening is that story.
In the city of Park Falls, a series of depraved and unsolved murders have led ex-policeman Derrick to take a closer look at the crimes. Despite the fact that he’s no longer employed by the city, Derrick can’t help but get involved with the ongoing investigation. Each murder victim has been torn up, with bite marks found near open wounds; before long, Cynthia, resident crazy lady, has formed a theory about zombies. Does anyone believe her? Of course not.
One of the things I enjoyed about reading Awakening is that it really does feel different than a lot of zombie fiction on the market today. Don’t get me wrong, I love zombie stories both serious and silly. I love World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide, I love Left 4 Dead, I love Zombie Tales… there is a lot to love for people who love zombies, but that also makes it harder for anything to stand out. Instead of going for the overwhelming hopelessness of a full-scale zombie apocalypse, Awakening focuses on a few individuals in one city who are coming to grips with the fact that these monsters might be real–and close by.
From the outside looking in, it’s easy to accept the fact that a place like Park Falls could suddenly become overrun by flesh-eating former humans. However, if you were in the same position as Derrick, you probably wouldn’t believe it even if you saw a zombie attack with your own eyes. Nick Tapalansky did a fantastic job capturing real reactions to the murders and the cause. He has the same questions any of us would have:What caused this? Where did they come from? How do we stop them? Can this really be happening?
Alex Eckman-Lawn’s artwork perfectly captures the tone of this story, and I don’t think it would have worked quite as well with a different artist. As I’ve said before, I like comics that don’t look like anything else. I like unique, distinctive art styles, and Eckman-Lawn definitely fits the bill. He manages to convey the fear and desperation running through each panel. Unlike most zombies stories, there aren’t undead at every turn; the knowledge of their existence, and the helplessness felt when trying to deal with them, are the really terrifying things here.
I was hoping for something that would approach zombies in a different way, and Awakening delivered. The fact that the artwork is freaking amazing definitely helps recommend this book; Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn are the perfect team for Awakening. Needless to say, I’m very impressed, and eagerly anticipate the next chapter of this story.