- Release Date: February 6, 2013
- Publisher: Vertigo
- Story By: Dan Abnett
- Art By: I.N.J. Culbard
Vertigo loves its mini-series lately. When even their most dependable ongoings are coming to an end (or jumping ship to DC’s main line, as in the case of John Constantine), the gems can still be found in one-shots, collections, and short series bursts. THE NEW DEADWARDIANS is one of those most successful bursts.
I’ll admit that I was skeptical upon learning of the subject matter. Vampires and zombies? Really? AGAIN? However, I am most pleased to report that writer Dan Abnett has taken a non-mainstream approach to these two most famous monsters. To deal with a zombie (“Restless”) outbreak during 19th century wartime, top tier English gentlemen develop a revolutionary “cure”: vampirism. Unfortunately, as Inspector George Suttle has discovered, eternal life is not all it’s cracked up to be, and the very concept has robbed him of his position as a murder detective.
Instead of miring itself in immortal moping, THE NEW DEADWARDIANS reads like a straightforward mystery with a supernatural bent. It doesn’t even feel like vampires and zombies, but like some alternate universe in which “the Young and the Restless” are afflictions plaguing a class-laden world. In an incredibly entertaining twist, many stereotypical aspects of Victorian culture are exaggerated most effectively under circumstances of monstrous biology. In factual history, a grieving widow might apply makeup to save face; here, she applies eyeliner-accented “tears” to greet her visitors because vampires, it has been established, are unable to actually weep.
Artist I.N.J. Culbard has worked on classics in the past, namely THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, which is just about the most appropriate resume an artist can have for a book like this. The pencils ache with formality; the colors rest heroically between the edges. And yet there is nothing so uniquely stylized as to detract from the narrative at work. The lines just weave themselves around the story, giving life—and taking it away—wherever needed.
Like all great mysteries, there are enough red herrings to remind you that truth is entirely relative. And like all great mysteries, the final verdict is not the end game—merely a brief explanation that is not nearly as satisfying as the developments that have led up to it. Perfect, then, that NEW DEADWARDIANS spends very little time punishing its villain and a great amount of time wrapping its somewhat clichéd time period around an overused mythology to somehow come up with something entirely new. Two trites make an original? As the Victorians would say: how droll.