Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn’s zombie noir, Awakening, has reached its grim conclusion. The Awakening Omnibus captures every gritty page of the series and gives the reader a glimpse of small-town life in the wake of an escalating undead crisis. Enjoy this advanced review of the zombie thriller from Archaia Press.
Awakening Omnibus, Vol. 1
Writer: Nick Tapalansky
Artist: Alex Eckman-Lawn
I first heard about Awakening a little more than two years ago at an Archaia panel at Wizard World Philadelphia, and I was immediately intrigued. Even in 2009, the zombie genre was starting to feel a little stale, but I felt that there was still room for more stories to be told–as long as they had some unique element to them. I enjoyed the first volume of the story, but for whatever reason, it fell off my radar for a while. Now that I’ve read the entire omnibus, I remember why I liked Awakening so much in the first place, and Park Falls’ turn into a literal zombie town is one of the more interesting stories I’ve read recently.
The “zombies” in Awakening aren’t really traditional zombies, at least in the sense of most zombie lore. They’re called “the awakened” by some townspeople, and though they love to feast on human flesh and only stop when presented with severe brain trauma, there doesn’t appear to be any external factor making them this way. One moment, they’re normal, functioning members of society, and suddenly they’re awakened. This mystery is especially baffling to investigator Derrick Peters, a former police officer who retired under mysterious circumstances. Encouraging him in his quest for answers is Cynthia Ford, the first person to utter the word “zombies”–unfortunately, she’s regarded by most as Park Falls’ resident crazy person, and even Derrick is hesitant to listen to her.
Throughout the course of the story, as Derrick investigates a local pharmaceutical plant that was there one day, gone the next, the awakened increase in numbers. They go from just a few, with most of the townsfolk not even believing they exist, to a part of everyday life, with people regularly having to kill and burn their friends and family as they suddenly turn. This is one of the more interesting aspects of Awakening. Most zombie stories present you with an end-of-the-world scenario: society crumbled, humanity on the verge of extinction, a group of people fighting against all odds just for day-to-day survival. However, for most of Awakening, the world as we know it is still intact. People are becoming used to the presence of the awakened, but still going out, having fun, doing their jobs. This in-between, a time after the initial outbreak but before everything goes completely to hell, is a refreshing point of view for a story about the undead.
Writer Nick Tapalansky does a great job presenting this tale, though Awakening does move a little slowly at times. It certainly doesn’t have the grab-you-by-the-balls urgency that some of its contemporaries, such as The Walking Dead, have; Awakening moves at its own pace. By the second half of the book, though, things are moving more quickly, and I read the last 150 pages in one sitting without even intending to.
I don’t want to take away from Tapalansky’s writing skills, but absolutely the most unique thing about Awakening is Alex Eckman-Lawn’s art style. It perfectly captures the gritty tone of the story without being too dark or bland, and almost every page is worth a second look for the little details embedded in each background. Sometimes his style is a little too loose, making it hard to tell what’s happening in certain panels, but for the most part, it completely works. Just like I said two years ago, it’s hard to imagine that this book would have been as effective with a different artist.
If you have room in your heart, and on your shelves, for one more zombie story, make it Awakening. The omnibus is full of extras like artwork, script pages, and even a short story set within Park Falls by Nick Tapalansky. It’s interesting and distinctive, and though it may not answer every question you have, you’ll definitely remember it.
Awakening Omnibus, Vol. 1 is published by Archaia Press will be available in limited supply at San Diego Comic Con, and available at your local comic shop August 24th.