The Webcomic Overlook #34: Last Blood
Creator of webcomics with questionable quality, such as Pupkin and Marry Me (which I reviewed here). However, has managed to win over several skeptical reviewers with +EV, a webcomic about online poker. (The world is full of surprises, huh?) Burns with the passion of a thousand suns, and has a flair for drama punctuated by groanworthy goofiness. Fancies himself as a movie director in the making. Love him or hate him, his webcomics seem to draw a good number of loyal fans… so he must be doing something right.
Co-founder of the popular Keenspot webcomic hosting site, which will always have a soft place in my heart for hosting Matt Wilson’s Bonus Stage webtoon. Creator of well-received webcomics Superosity, Sore Thumbs, and WICKEDPOWERED (reviewed here). A mad genius, his webcomics seem to always be perched precariously on the fine line between sheer brilliance and sheer stupidity.
What happens when you bring these two together? I imagine it would be a combustible, brotherly alliance not seen since the Duke brothers ran roughshod in Hazzard County, or since the Undertaker and Kane joined forces to become the Brothers of Destruction, or since Peyton and Eli Manning grafted on a pair of laser rocket arms and…. No wait, that’s getting a bit indulgent and way inaccurate. However, the Duke Boys and WWF tag team analogies still apply.
Add Keenspot veteran artist Owen Gieni to the mix, and you get Last Blood, a webcomic about a world ruled by zombies.
According to the wikipedia article for Blatant Comics, the company distributed around 20,000 copies of Last Blood during 2007′s Free Comic Book Day. They must not have reached Seattle, because I remember going to four different comic book stores and never seeing a copy. (To be fair, I was mainly picking up kid’s comics for my girlfriend’s elementary school.) Still, if that article is accurate, that makes Last Blood one of the few webcomics with a large print distribution, even if, you know, no one actually paid for it. Last Blood is also yet another one of those comics that Bobby Crosby wants to turn into a movie, which he will film. (He said the same thing about his other webcomic, Marry Me.) Why Bobby doesn’t just focus on his comics and let others do the filming is open to debate … but hey, the American dream, huh? I mean, Alan Moore and Frank Miller were just friggin’ underachievers.
As I mentioned before, the world of Last Blood is one dominated by zombies. The story opens with what looks like a homage to Jaws, except the girl in the bikini is eaten by the accursed undead instead of a great white shark. Things go precipitously downhill over the span of the next 30 days. The entire world becomes a fabulous zombie buffet, and humanity is poised on the brink of extinction.
So far, standard Romero fare.
A small band of humans find shelter in a schoolhouse far away from civilization. April is the colony’s heart: she’s a schoolteacher and perennial optimist with a winsome smile. Which means that if there’s going to be romance in this comic, she’s candidate A. Mac is big man with the build of a rugby player who seems to enjoy himself a bit too much when mowing down the zombie hordes. And there’s Murdo, a former marine with a hat who’s got a thing for sexy lady vampires. Heh, who doesn’t? There are other characters, but these are the starting line-up of a 30-plus roster for humanity.
At this point, I start to wonder: where in the world is Chris Crosby? I mean, the very first cover page credits both Bobby and Chris Crosby. At this point in the story, though, it seems like everything’s Bobby Crosby. The blog, the general tone of the story … it’s Bobbyland. Crap, even the header says “Written by Bobby Crosby.” Have I been tempted by false promises of fraternal dominance? Does this mean that I can’t use my incredible backlog of “Crosby and Crosby” quips? There are some panels that seem to exhibit Chris’ odd sense of humor, but those moments are few and far between. If you’re reading this post, Bobby, please clarify Chris’ contributions, because it’s not that obvious to me. Perhaps Chris was only heavily involved with the initial premise of Last Blood, and that turns out to be a standard zombie movie set-up.
Actually, that’s not completely true.
Last Blood introduces two characters that manage to put a twist on the standard zombie infestation story. During a zombie attack on the school, the human defenders are joined by Matheson and Valerie — who, incidentally, look like they just stepped out of a Matrix convention. The carnage is intense, but also light-hearted at times. When Math and Val rejoin the human colony, the reveal their dark secret. They’re vampires! Dun dun DUN! And they’re here for their blood. Math and Val suspect that this small colony may be the last group of humans on earth, and, well, vampires gots a hankerin’ for plasma cocktail, you know what I’m sayin’?
A world of vampires and zombies was already explored in the classic I Am Legend. Chances, though, are that Crosby & Crosby were aware of the novel, since the main character seems to be named after Legend’s author, Richard Matheson. I don’t have a problem with exploring the same world, though, since Crosby & Crosby introduce enough curveballs to keep it from turning into another Omega Man.For example, zombies are suffering from an advanced form of vampirism. If a vampire doesn’t get enough blood, he or she becomes one of the mindless brain-munchers that roam the land. Additionally, since the colony may be the last humans on Earth, it is in the vampires’ best interest to keep them alive … or to prevent them from turning into zombies themselves.
Otherwise, it’s pretty nifty to be a vampire. Eventually, Math and Val are joined by their vampire pals, a sort of Vampiric Ultimate Avengers. They come in all shapes and sizes. One even looks like Tyler Mane playing Sabertooth from the first X-Men movie, an association that becomes even more pronounced when it turns out our hirsute vampire used to be a wrestler. A keen sense of blood is a sixth sense, giving vampires a near psychic awarness of their surroundings. If you’re lucky, you can fly. Seriously, outside of the blood cravings, there’s really no downside.
The combined human and vampire forces find themselves at the mercy of the zombies. It turns out that the zombies are under the command of a single leader known as the First Zombie… and this mystery figure has ties to protagonists. Then it’s hack, slash, and generally getting medieval on all sorts of zombie asses.The artwork is easily the best I’ve seen from Owen Gieni. His illustrations in Wickedpowered and Sore Thumbs displayed a strong manga influence and were much more cartoony. By contrast, his efforts in Last Blood are darker and more detailed, yet are softened to give the impression of a world covered in perpetual mist. The artwork is mainly rendered in black and white. Starting with Volume 2 (which began 2008), some recent panels are rendered in muted, sepia-toned color. Gieni seems to have a lot of fun drawing body parts splitting up and flying apart. He also does an admirable job depicting the buttloads of zombies, which, I imagine, must have taken him quite a while to draw.There were times that the illustrations felt a bit awkward, though. Some scenes that were supposed to depict action or suspense felt a little flat. One scene, for example, shows one of the most gentle self-inflicted stakings I have ever seen. Another unnecessary panel shows a character kneeling on the roof, and it looks very awkward. That’s because Gieni draws mostly from eye level. I think he would’ve gotten better results if he’d played with perspectives a little. Overall, though, Gieni’s art does give the series a nice, gothic feel, and there wasn’t a single time I thought his artwork was inappropriately manga.
Crosby did a good job juggling a large cast. It’s not an easy job, making each of the characters distinct. Most of the time, you can tell them apart visually. Yet Crosby writes each of them with their own distinct personalities. Once in a while, he’ll throw in a woefully one-dimensional character, but fortunately these characters are not a common occurrence. There are times, though, when Bobby Crosby seems to love his characters far too much. Like when he professes his love in the blog portion of the comic or sticks them with some “cool” (i.e., lame) dialogue. There’s nothing wrong with loving you characters, but this sort of affection is starting to cross into Mary Sue territory.
Crosby still has a little trouble handling meet-cutes and realistic human relationships. I mean, honestly … how many times do we see couples accidentally falling into bed and sleeping together? To be fair, April and Math (c’mon, you knew it was going to happen) have much more chemistry than the couple in Marry Me … which, may I remind you, is a romance webcomic.
So when the carnage begins, does Last Blood deliver on the promise of shock and horror? Some scenes were genuinely chilling, hitting hard and delivering the full effect of pain and loss. Other times, it seems like Crosby dishes out a fatality just for the shock value alone. The death of one long-suffering side character, for example, had no lead-in and was completely out of character. Also out of place are the small humorous touches. Crashing an airplane into a wall of zombies makes for some cool visuals and a ridiculous four story pile of zombie corpses is pretty funny, but it doesn’t co-exist comfortably with the earlier psychological traumas.
But my biggest pet peeve of all is that the characters don’t even act in according to the rules of Last Blood. One character, for example, requests to become a vampire, and gets his wish without much protest. Wait a minute. We’ve been told that there’s not that many humans left on earth, since they’re needed as a sort of foodstock for the remaining vampires … shenanigans! Meanwhile, we’re told that a mere scrape from a zombie’s tooth is enough to turn a human into a zombie, yet we see guys like Mac plow into zombie hordes like he’s got adamantium skin? Bah.
And finally, Last Blood provides the most retarded explanation for a zombie take-over ever. Don’t click on this link if you don’t want to be spoiled. However, I will tell you that the grand plan for total zombie dominance involved zombies dressed up in sunglasses and hoodies. Seriously.
Still, Last Blood is a fairly decent story, and much better than I would have given Bobby Crosby credit for. As for its movie potential? Well, Crosby is going to have to settle for a general tone, whether it be genuinely disturbing like Saw or a crazy-go-nuts escapade like Planet Terror. As for Crosby filming it himself… well, I guess Ed Wood eventually had Tim Burton directing a movie about him, so it’s not like his career was a total failure.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)