Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: FUBAR (graphic novel)

Review: FUBAR
By Jeffrey McComsey
Review by Dread Sockett

Deadvida scored a copy of Jeffrey McComsey's self-published WW2 zombie magnum opus, FUBAR (complete with some kickass sketches and sigs), for the West Coast RIGOR MORTIS archive & headquarters where of course, I am Chief, Commander and all around soldier of Bullshitus Excellentus and other zombie/horror claptrap. I think I read it twice the day it arrived. Truthfully, this review should've been completed a few days after its release in September at the Baltimore Comic-Con 2010. Unfortunately, it came in just days after I'd finished RIGOR MORTIS #3's ObCom piece on NAZI ZOMBIE films, so I was a bit over the whole write-about-NZs-thang.

So here we are months later and my Nazi fatigue has abated. I'll first say that I LOVED the idea of this graphic novel, really. It damn sure is about time someone did this. It's also great that McComsey and crew recognized the limitations, as well as unexplored areas, of the NZ idea and opened it up to include Allies which helped immensely toward making this alternate bit of history seem believable as a zombie concept.

BLAZING COMBAT: In the thanks, McComsey drops props to Warren's BLAZING COMBAT as being a primary inspiration for this work. For those who don't know, BC is cited by comic eggheads as being some of the most important war comics. Released in the sixties, and condemned to die after four issues due to its anti-war stance (Vietnam), BC was hardcore stuff that carried the torch that Harvey Kurtzman and crew started with EC's FRONTLINE COMBAT and TWO-FISTED TALES. BC is legendary, and rightly so, since it not only had fine stories, it also carried the likes of Frazetta, Severin, Toth, Wood, etc. Oddly though, the reason I'm taking the time with this is, is I can't tell you how rare it is to hear that someone took inspiration from a WARREN title. It's always MARVEL this and DC that. BLAZING COMBAT was genius, so when I say these guys started off on the right foot with this reviewer, you know why.

Ironically though, the excitement I had reading the BC reference put me in a spot where I needed to keep from accidentally drawing comparisons to BC (and just for clarity, McComsey never once suggests they were emulating BC).

McCOMSEY's HEROES: FUBAR is a collaborative effort spearheaded by McComsey that includes: Stephen Lindsay, Dominic Vivona, Steve Becker, Benjamin Truman, Jim McMunn, Mike Imboden, James Ngyen, Phil McClorey, Steve Willhite, Kyle Kaczmarczyk, Rob Croonenborghs, Jonathan Moore, Helaine Crawford, Shawn Williams, Darrin Stephens, Lonny Chant, with Jason Meadows/Jeff McClelland lettering. Jeebus. I hope I got everyone (and forgive me if I didn't I mean sheesh, I DENTED MY COPY trying to get these names right, so be nice).

He's assembled a pretty diverse range of artists for the comics within and as a whole, FUBAR is an epic graphic novel that quite frankly needs to be made into a movie. The general wrap-around idea of FUBAR is that the Nazis have come up with something (i.e. crazy shit) that would give their fading empire a scorched earth finish – with zombies. They lose control of this and thus the premise for all of the tales is set within this alternate reality. Readers piece this together as the stories unfold. I enjoyed this a lot since this is the first time I've seen the idea done to this degree and done pretty well. Most NZ flicks have the monsters set in modern times, here, we're right smack dab in the middle of WW2 in a pretty compelling what-if scenario that puts all sides into the fray. Very cool.

GO TELL THE INKERS: My one criticism is that FUBAR, as a whole, could've used a more serious tone in its illustrations, which I did actually enjoy. This is not to say there wasn't seriousness put forth in the style varieties because there are indeed a few. The problem I had with the look is that there wasn't one story that cemented a truly serious look for FUBAR's universe. Considering the subject matter, I'd think an even darker look for the art was needed for at least one balls-to-the-wall set piece. Hell, it could've had an Impressionist strip and I would have been okay with it if I had a really good anchoring piece to reference.
As it was, I spent just a tad too much time visually working through and occasionally being distracted by many of the stylistic panels. Stretched arms, really exaggerated expressions, etc., worked against the strip dynamics at times. There was more than one occasion where I thought if a story was done in a darker realistic style and toned down the almost whimsical imagery a few notches, whatever piece woulda kicked more ass and the art wouldn't be fighting the story for a reader’s attention. For example, JONATHAN MOORE’s wash-style found in the pin-up section looked like a good candidate for a full-length anchor piece. His Churchill is perfectly nasty as is Stalin and Eisenhower. They’re even more effective than the zombies that he draws in his inked story “De Guer”.

Despite these criticisms, FUBAR actually manages to be pretty visually consistent and satisfying because, well, everything's so damned stylized. Just maybe next time I think I'd like to see these guys knock out the subject matter with a really serious art tone and nothing that feels like I could say “that was a fun read”. Nazi Zombies should never be a "fun" read.

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