Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Living With the Dead #3

Halloween 2018 Post-A-Day: Day 3
Living With the Dead #3

A great premise but this will be all spoilers!

Writer – Mike Richardson
Artist – Ben Stenbeck
Cover Art – Richard Corben
Cover Colors – Dave Stewart
Designer – Krystal Hennes
Letterer – Clem Robins
Editor – Scott Allie
Assistant Editor – Ryan Jorgensen
November 2007

One thing I do hate when doing Crapbox reviews is spoiling the ending to perfectly good series.

The Crapbox is by definition a “random pile of books that have made their way to me” and thus by that very randomness, it is likely I will never put issues of lower selling titles back together in a complete order. For some reason that means I have an inordinate amount of second issues. I have been tempted to run a sub-section called “Number Two in the Crapbox” but feel the title might become a bit spot-on, so I’ve resisted.

Aside from that, the Crapbox also supplies me with plenty of last issues of series. That’s good and bad. Good in that I can see how a story wraps up, which arcs completed and a sense that you got to see how things end. Bad in that you have some clues on how it started, but never enough to judge if it fulfilled those arcs as it should have. And it spoils the ending for others, completely, if you decide to review it.

Which is exactly what I’ve decided to do with Living With The Dead issue 3, by writer Mike Richardson featuring art supplied by Ben Stenbeck and a gorgeous Richard Corben cover. I’m going to SPOIL THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF THIS ONE!

So you’ve been warned. SPOILERS AHEAD!

This series bills itself as “Two boys, a girl, and seven billion living dead!” which immediately brings to mind a sci fi movie I watched as kid called “A Boy and His Dog.” Living with the Dead explores very similar themes in this final issue and shares pretty much the same conclusion. I must admit that I enjoyed its divergent ending much more than I should have. Let’s get down to our review...

We begin with some wonderfully icky panels of a lone zombie walking up to an overly booby-trapped door at the bottom of some basement stairs leading to a brownstone apartment.

While the zombie reaches for the handle of the door we get voice-over from three parties inside the building. Two are arguing. Apparently one of the men was left alone in a dangerous situation by the other. The other tries unsuccessfully to convince there was never any danger and the only reason he was left was because he needed to get sleep. The woman’s voice interrupts and tells them to knock it off.
This is a full blown fight that I interpret to mean things aren’t going well for this group. One of the two men appears to be trying to off the other one and has resorted to drugging him and leaving him without camouflage in an infested area. 

But while that is interesting and all, I have to show you what you are missing visually. The first page is stunning, and here is the sequencing on page two as the zombie makes it down the stairs only to have his leg caught in a bear trap and then…

…fall against the door handle/makeshift zombie zapper. Ben Stenbeck has talent to spare and this book’s graphics make it worth the price of admission. To top that off, though you get a great zombie action tale as well. Let’s meet our protagonists, already deep in an argument.

Meet Whip, who is dressed in the chef’s apron and hat; Straw, who looks like he’s been run over by a lawn mower; and Betty, the girl they are fighting over. Appears the guys just met Betty two issues ago. Before then, the two of them were quite chummy, but Betty’s introduction has caused some strife in their happy home inside zombieland.

Straw and Whip seem to have noticed it too.

I hate to dismiss whatever dynamics have been setup in the last two issues, but this is really enough to start the complete story for me. I’m sure the interpersonal relationships between these two survivors was set up in great detail in issue one. Then the complications that arose from bringing in Betty lined out in issue two as the pair jockeyed for first place. But really, I’ve got the story just from this exchange. Love that art too.

Straw figures out that the pair have to make a change and Whip is right there with him. Even if Whip isn’t quite sure where that actually is.

The proposal Straw makes is that they will both lay off Betty completely so as to save their friendship (and possibly lives) from destruction. They shake on it like best buds…

…and then that night Straw tries to sneak into Betty’s bed…

…only to find Betty’s not there and Whip has had the same idea. 

Both are caught by Betty who leaves them to sort things out, but it is really clear these two only have getting with Betty on their mind.

The next morning, Betty shoves them both out of bed, makes them breakfast, and the presents her little favor (which we get the feeling would be something the boys would NEVER do were it not for Betty).

And while Whip confesses how much he likes Betty and would do anything for her, Straw is resistant at first. He really seems more of the “brains” of these two, although as this scene shows both are really more controlled by their hormones than anything else.

So the trio head off after breakfast, although Betty takes her sweet time getting ready and grabbing ammo. She’s the last one out the door even. 

A door she forgets to lock, allowing the undead to enter the apartment.

While the pair put on zombie masks which apparently make you safer in this world, Betty declines. I suppose the zombies don’t look at you as prey if you are wearing one or something. We do get this neat scene too of the trio dispatching a zombie pedestrian. 

In fact it becomes an entire sequence that adds a bunch of fun to this drive and Betty swearing she will never wear one of the boy’s gross zombie masks.

If you aren’t taking notes on all this, you should be. I will provide a bit of a wrap-up of my observations at the end. For now though, they arrive at the area where Straw marked as too dangerous to go and while Betty collects her stuff, the boys siphon gas.

There is a bit of humor relating to Straw always siphoning gas wrong, which he does yet again here and then Betty starts tossing out luggage (full of heels, apparently?).

Unfortunately. the boys notice the zeds are quickly surrounding their car and beat feet back. Straw gets himself into a pickle and Betty helps him out. (only fair. He WAS toating her luggage.)

We get some neat zombie blasting going on as Whip pulls out the mother of all chainsaws.

And now it’s a party!

On the way back Straw allows Whip a chance to pick through a comic book store….

…and the rest of the ride is uneventful. What awaits them when they get back, though?

A half-opened door…

They treat it with the seriousness it deserves, but find no zombies…

…at first. Now they realize that all of the zeds from the streets have made themselves at home in their digs.

Did I say all? Well not all. Some are waiting to block their retreat outside.

When the elevators don’t work, we get this nicely done small scene that serves to humanize these characters. So much effort has been put into making this a broad comedy that this works to bring home the ending, which we will be SPOILING IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS! (LAST WARNING!)…

First off Betty covers the guys retreat to the “no way out of this mess” rooftop…

…on the way up Straw lets it drop that he has a plan that could save Betty and one of them…at the expense of the other’s life.

His idea is that one of them sacrifices themselves by jumping off the building which will lead to a huge splash of blood. These zombies are attracted to blood like flies are to poop and they will disengage pursuit of the other two in order to rush downstairs to be the first to get to the messy entrails. Straw proposes they draw sticks to decide who goes over and who gets Betty. They get a bit of chummy bonding before they see who loses out and who wins it all.

Meanwhile Betty is taking out the Zeds like nobody’s business, worked up into a frenzy…

…She makes the rooftop before the boys draw straws. Hot and heavy on her heals are the zombie horde. A body flies off the roof, screaming as it descends. And two figures are later driving out of town in the red convertible.

And we learn it was BETTY who dived off the roof. Whip states she was so eager to get to the zombies on the ground that she dove off the roof before Straw had to take that same plunge.

The boys decide to make for Chicago and pick new names. The End.

Except I don’t believe this ending. Not for one second. The last scene between these two, they were heartbroken at having to spend their lives without each other. It was a real “bromantical” moment.

And Betty. Betty screwed everything up. She was a object they fought over to possess where they didn’t care about anything else with that same degree of jealousy or envy. She forced them to take on dangerous missions like retrieving her useless high-heels collection in the most dangerous part of town. She refused to wear the masks that help ward off zombie attacks.  And she was the one who allowed the zombies to break in by forgetting to lock the door.

See where I’m going with this.

I don’t trust Straw and Whip’s version of events. I believe they are embellishing events to assuage some guilt they feel. I think the boys tossed her off the roof rather than face the rest of their years without the other. She clearly was the weakest link in their chain. And weak links can mean the difference between life and death in a harsh world like the one they were living in.

Now I’m probably wrong about all this, but it just FEELS SO RIGHT. Just like A Boy and His Dog. Either way, Living with the Dead is fantastic and if I see the other two issues or the trade, picking them up is a done deal.

Added Bonus: Whip's recipe for Beef Burgo..Burgeou...uh, Stuff. Beef Stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for another great review! I've had the first 2 issues of this for a long time (found during my own crapbox searches), but have never been able to see how the story ended until now. Your assessment of being able to start the story in the final issue looks spot on. The first 2 issues are good setup, but the meat of the story looks like it's all right here in the 3rd. This story probably should have been an extra-sized one-shot instead of 3 issues. Thanks again!


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