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Z Nation #1 (review)

Z Nation #1
Dynamite Entertainment, 12 April 2017
Writer: Craig Engler, Fred Van Lente

“Z Nation” is a new comic book series based on the same-titled SyFy channel television series. It can be summarily described as a story that follows a small group of survivors a year after a zombie outbreak has brought about the collapse of the US government. The comic’s story serves as a prequel to the TV series, and the first issue features at least one character that fans of the TV show will be familiar with.

The story involves a quartet of survivors being sent on a mission to retrieve a stockpile of “Soylent Z,” which is based on (or a direct reference to) the “Soylent” brand of meal replacement products. The Soylent products come in powdered form that must be mixed with water before consumption. The product is marketed as containing all the nutritional requirements of an average adult. It is easy to understand why it is very valuable in the event of a zombie apocalypse – it is portable, not susceptible to spoilage, and can provide better nutrition to survivors compared to random canned food products.

The problem is that the stockpile of Soylent-Z is stashed on a cruise ship moored 10 miles away from the survivors’ camp. This requires a dangerous trek across zombie-infested roads and, as the protagonists eventually determine, a bloody encounter with the cruise ship’s crew, all of which have adopted an aggressive, violent approach towards other survivors.

In terms of quality of writing, “Z Nation” can be praised for relying on the same tone as the television show. The “Z Nation” television series managed to achieve a certain amount of success despite comparisons to (and competition with) the massively popular “Walking Dead” television series. This occurred by the writers adopting a slightly less cynical narrative tone, peppered with humor and elements that emphasize the “fiction” part of science fiction. By way of example, the horde of zombie cows alone help a great deal in differentiating “Z Nation” from other zombie comic books.

The choice to portray a cruise ship’s crew – all of them still dressed in their pristine white uniforms and looking like cast extras from the 1980s romantic-comedy television show “The Love Boat”- as a credible threat to a team of former national guard and hardened survivors is done with tongue firmly in cheek. It serves as a refreshing take on zombie survival stories, where usually the survivors with military training are cast as villains, fighting survivors made up of civilians.

Unfortunately, despite the attempts to stand out from other zombie yarns, the “Z Nation” comic book still can’t hurdle one big sales problem: the zombie genre at this point has already been bled dry. Much like the television series it was based on, “Z Nation” is unable to provide the audience with a unique take on the archetypal zombie apocalypse. Even the choice to focus on the survivors and relegating the undead to the role of an environmental hazard is already well-worn at this point.

We recommend this comic to fans of the television show, or for those looking for a decent zombie comic book series, but do not expect anything groundbreaking.