I recently came across this book: Marvel Zombies: Dead Days.
As soon as I saw it I was intrigued. Zombie superheroes? Of course! (My reaction to seeing this book made me think of a review I read years ago in Dragon magazine, where the writer was reviewing a new edition of the Battletech game, and remarked, “Battletech is one of those properties that keeps game designers awake at night going: Why didn’t I think of that?“)
The story in Marvel Zombies: Dead Days is basically that a zombie plague infects all the superheroes on earth, and the zombie superheroes quickly consume all the non-superheroes, and then the zombie superheroes go looking for ways to travel to parallel earths in order to keep on feeding. The zombie version of super-genius Reed Richards finds a way to contact an alternate version of himself (a much younger and more naive version), and convinces this younger version to open a dimensional gateway between the two worlds. The young Reed Richards ends up trapped in the zombie world, while back on his home world his friends struggle to keep the zombie version of the Fantastic Four contained. It’s all pretty awesome, and is made especially creepy by the evil Reed Richards, who is always twisting his zombified body into weird shapes.
I was also really struck by the artwork in the middle section, which was different from most other comic book art I’ve seen. (I’m only a very casual comic book reader.) The art looks very airbrushed and photographic, more like commercial art than traditional comic book art. I thought it was kind of cool. Intrigued, I looked up the artist, Greg Land … and discovered that not everyone is such a big fan.
There are numerous complaints about his art style: That he’s not merely photo-referencing, but is actually tracing and/or digitally altering photographs and/or other artists’ work. That it’s constantly distracting when you start recognizing the faces of celebrities in the comic. That characters’ faces and hairstyles don’t stay consistent from panel to panel (since different reference models were used), and that characters’ expressions often don’t match the events around them. That you see the same faces and poses recycled ad infinitum. And that the artist uses a lot of porn as reference material, and that once you notice this you start seeing “porn face” everywhere in the comic. The whole topic brings up a lot of really interesting issues of copyright, fair use, valid artistic technique, and aesthetics, and it’s also just plain hilarious. There’s a long thread discussing this, with lots of image comparisons. Here’s one example: