iZombie was the first modern Vertigo comic I loved.
I remember when it first came out, and I saw that gorgeous Michael Allred cover staring at me from the shelves in the very back of Borders. I was working at Borders at the time as an employee, trying desperately to get a job writing comics. In fact, I wrote my first ever published comic (Angel: Yearbook for IDW) on receipt paper between customers during the post-holiday return rush. When it wasn’t busy, though, and when I wasn’t scribbling down story notes, I’d spend the better part of my shifts in the graphic novel section, reorganizing and choosing which books would get the face-out treatment. I normally reserved that for books I was already enjoying – Buffy, Locke & Key, Brubaker’s Captain America run, Runaways – but something struck a chord with me as soon as I saw iZombie for the first time, so I gave it the rare pre-read face-out. Also, I bought a copy that night.
Borders had a hell of an employee discount. I still miss it.
Anyway, I took home iZombie and I loved it every big as much as I hoped I would. The Vertigo books I had enjoyed were mostly either already classics (Sandman and Preacher) or nearing the end of a run that began long before I started reading comics heavily (Y: The Last Man), so I was excited to start in on iZombie from the very beginning. I believe it was my first Chris Roberson comic, and it was for absolute sure my first Allred comic. The art left me completely stunned – it was retro, stylized, expressive, zany, trippy, emotional, and fresh. Laura Allred’s muted palette perfectly complimented Michael’s clean artwork, which, looking back, has some of the most creative and expressive variation of line weight I’ve seen in a comic book.
iZombie lasted for twenty-eight issues, collected in four total volumes: Dead to the World, uVampire, Six Feet Under and Rising, and Repossession. It began with a simple concept – a dead girl Gwen eats brains in order to not become a mindless zombie, and the brains she eats come rife with memories that she must sort through to gain peace or closure – but it turned into a story about secret societies, the nature of the soul, history, and… well, the end of the world. For such an ambitious book, though, with a wonky progression of plot that matches the beautifully eccentric artwork by the Allreds, Gwen’s story is quiet, grounded by thoughtful characterization. Gwen and her friends have a Scooby Gang thing going on, especially early in the narrative, and it’s easy it follow and root for her supporting cast of Ellie the ghost and Scott the wereterrier.
It has been four years since there have been new issues of iZombie on the shelves, but Gwen’s undeath continues with a television series based on the comic, created by Veronica Mars showrunner Rob Thomas. Though the show is very different from the comic so far – which, if you’ve read the complete run, you know it kinda has to be – it’s an equally engaging experience. I miss Roberson and Allred’s Gwen quite a bit but, with any luck, maybe the TV show will show Vertigo that readers aren’t even close to tired of reading her brain-eating adventures.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Destiny NY, Robyn Hood, Van Helsing), novels (Iron Man, Avengers, Charmed), and pop culture journalism (Blastoff Comics, Sad Girls Guide). He plans on being a waffle for Halloween.
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