Tuesday, October 2, 2018

We Will Bury You #1

Halloween 2018 Post-A-Day: Day 2
We Will Bury You #1

That “zombies on the loose at the turn of the century lesbian love story” that you didn’t know you were asking for

Writers – Brea Grant and Zane Austin Grant
Artist – Kyle Strahm
Colorist – Zac Atkinson
Letterer – Robbie Robins
Editor – Denton J. Tipton
February 2010

Zombie horror has been used to depict all sorts of social issues. From consumerism, racism, and classism, the genre is rife with allegorical nods to how we treat each other as we race toward extinction, both individually and as a collective species. It’s no wonder that someone would finally use a zombie tale to tackle gender equality, feminism, and misogyny.

And that someone was actually two someones, sister and brother writing duo Brea and Zane Austin Grant. For those of you who watched Heroes: yes, this is the same Brea Grant who played Daphne Millbrook. She’s been in a few other TV shows and movies, but that was actually her peak.

The We Will Bury You book was planned as a miniseries and wrapped up after issue number four. It works pretty well as commentary, but does it work so well as a zombie story? Let’s jump right in and find out…

We begin with noticing how Kyle Straham’s pen and ink drawings are made more vibrant by Zac Atkinson’s color palette. There is something about the post-industrial, pre-crash 1920’s that screams browns and golds. It is also interesting to note that several of the crowd scenes in the book will look almost like zombies are shuffling around among regular humans.

I believe that to be a metaphor for the “monsters around us all the time” theme that the Grant’s are running. It does fill you with a bit of unease as you’re never quite sure if the characters are safe or in mortal danger.

This character is Fanya, by the way. As you can tell by the stark white of her shirt and the fact that she is drawn walking against the crowd, Fanya is not like everyone else. She is even drawn in a more modern fashion, with her hair pulled back in a bun, wearing men’s clothing and what look like present-day spectacles. Her white shirt is emblematic of an angelic or righteous cause. The visual introduction of Fanya spot on identifies her as someone we have keep an eye on.

Unfortunately it also cast the books setting in a bit of doubt as she is drawn in such a modern fashion that I found myself perplexed about which century we would find the story set in.

Moving on to the bottom three pictures, the juxtaposition of the grave yard against the residences shows the parallels the book will come back to over and over. Zombies represent society, they will look to teardown or support the same institutions in a literal way that society has done since the 1920’s.

And that last panel starts our introduction of our other two principal characters, one of whom is barking out a question asked in what appears to be a sarcastic tone: Do you think women are guardians of morality? It is obvious that the speaker does not.

We turn the page to find Mirah, putting on her work clothes, which are also white, speaking to Henry who remains unseen at this time. 

Henry remains hidden and derides not just Mirah, but women in general, as being incapable of listening and thus unable to be moral beings. Henry’s pretty much an asshole in the mornings, is my first thought.

And before we all go “these two need couple’s counseling,” the idea this section is setting up is that Mirah is living a double life. She lives and possibly even sleeps with Henry yet, as will become apparent later, she is also dating and in love with Fanya. Thus Henry’s jab here is more about Mirah’s affair and Henry’s own bitterness with her than it is an indictment of the female species in general.

Or is it? The argument could be made that Henry’s upset over his significant other sneaking around on him with another woman has colored his perception about what women are in general.

When we finally see him here, he is exactly what we expect: a down-on-his luck writer, possibly living off of Mirah’s work (which is a bit morally questionable itself) while bemoaning her as an immoral creature incapable of telling right from wrong. Henry is kind of a controlling asshole with plenty of passive aggressive tendencies. 

If you came here for zombie horror, just wait. We’ll get to some of that. If you need something to cling to, that knife looks to have promise. First we watch the exit of Mirah, who’s last bit about “everything comes back” is definitely foreshadowing.

As is this next bit as Henry finally picks up the knife and catches a glimpse of his reflection in it. The blade shows him to be a monster, and perhaps that is a statement about Henry that has nothing to do with what is to come for these three, but is just who he is. Or maybe it is that by choosing to become this jealous of Mirah, Henry has made himself this monster. The choice is also reflected in picking up the knife, which is implied via the upward angle the blade takes for the first time since it has been shown. Henry has made a choice to be the bad guy.

Meanwhile, Fanya who we last say entering a large Catholic church, appears to be ransacking the priest’s dressing chambers looking for any spare change she can find. Her search is coming up empty when she is startled by someone.

The priest who finds her is depicted as a melting pile of wax in what can only be a contrast to Fanya’s clear complexion. He’s a bad guy too, which we get as Fanya steps up and plants a kiss on him and he does not resist. She uses this as a distraction to knock him down and get away.

Note that Fanya is admonished for being in the men’s changing room, the implied act is that she is somewhere that only men are supposed to be. She is stealing from men something only they are supposed to have. The room has religious significance and women are not allowed in. All of this is allegory to her being a lesbian and having sex with Mirah. Some pretty smart writing going on in this, if you peek under the hood a bit.

The next page has her buying a meal with stolen loot and a marble. I could go into the significance of the marble as a ball-shaped object possibly stolen from men, but I’m going to stop here and just let you enjoy this exchange, which I liked just as it is: two characters talking over a lunch counter. 

We turn the page to find Mirah at work, and work is a dance hall where men come in to pay for dances with women. Note the Eddie character here. He’s a weirdo who wants a chance with Mirah OUTSIDE of work and you can tell he is nothing by clumsy and unattractive, his advances being deflected by Mirah with little effort. 

She is pulled away and a further deep observation into societal norms around women is exposed when club owner Nicholai tells him “pick another girl… one’s as good as the next.” Mirah and women are seen by men as disposable commodities, without value beyond that of a quick thrill.

The next page contains even more misogyny as Mirah is defined as being only fit to hold a mop by her boss who does absolutely nothing but live off the fruits of her dancing. As a man, he is shown to need constant reminders that he’s in control. Eddie goes full meltdown because he doesn’t get his free dance, something that mirrors modern man’s entitlement that women are obligated to provide them sexual gratification regardless of their own feelings in the matter. All of this is hugely telling.

And it only gets worse when Fanya shows up dressed as a man to dance with Mirah. 

There’s some real fire and emotion here and it is coated that these two beautiful people inhabit a world filled with ugliness. But before they can kiss…

Eddie causes a scene…

…which turns into some of the rioting that has been reported around town. Basically, Zombies.

Fanya and Mirah separate, but Fanya worries about Mirah after seeing the level of rioting and destruction the zombies are causing and rushes back to find her. She ends up bumping into Henry, who suggests they look for Mirah back at his apartment.

Mirah meanwhile is still at the club. The rioting forced her into the back where she encounters this scene that is so ugly I don’t quite know what to make of it. Either this is a woman fellaciating a Nicholai OR it’s a zombie having a little…uh…sausage party? Either way more men break in and…wait, are those men or zombies? WTF is going on here? It’s so crazy I can’t really be certain.

Meanwhile Henry discloses to Fanya that he’s been nipped by one of the rioters. And that’s not his most shocking declaration.

This upsets Fanya to no end, crushing any dreams she may have had for a future with Mirah. But that’s not all. Seems Henry has gone over the deep end into a Trumpian eugenics mania that leads Fanya into a deep dark depression.

Of course, Mirah has no inkling of any of this going on. Meanwhile, Henry takes to brandishing a knife and telling Fanya that she should be prevented from having kids so as not to pass on her horribly lesbian genes.

Fanya has hand enough of his shit, however and directly accuses him of wanting to murder her because of his wife’s feelings for Fanya.

And then she causally poisons him. 

Which has an immediate and shocking effect.

And then she lets him have it with the heavy frontside of his Smith Corona typewriter. 

As Henry’s brains ooze out all over the floor, Mirah arrives. She reacts in a manner that shows while she isn’t unmoved by Henry’s death, she cares more for her relationship to Fanya than to anyone, Henry included. Yet she still feels remorse at his passing. 

They decide to take his body downstairs and leave with the property manager, saying he had an accident, while they skip town in the turmoil of the zombie outbreak, which are still thought of as riots.

While they sneak out the back door and the property manager calls for a hospital carriage to cart Henry to a hospital, a startling change comes over his corpse. 

And while the manager discovers Henry’s recovery isn’t miraculous but instead horrifying, the two young ladies find themselves out in the middle of the now deadly streets.

It’s all too much for Mirah, who allows her compassion for Henry overwhelm her love of Fanya for a moment. She begins to express her feelings when Fanya stops her. 

Appears they have more pressing matters to attend too. Rotting matters with plenty of teeth and claws.

So this was surprisingly great for a book with so little actual zombies in it. I loved the parallels setup between Henry’s/societies feelings toward same-sex relationships and women AND how there is a plague that is wrecking chaos throughout the background of nearly every scene. The arguments Henry makes are so loony tunes and yet so 2017 Republican that you almost want to give the book some props for being prescient.

In all though, it’s a good read. Engaging, gives you lots to think about and I feel there’s more metaphors a coming, as we now have zombie Henry and his single-minded pursuit of Mirah, a woman he should have realized doesn’t love him the way he wants her to and never will. I hope more of these pop up.

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