Max Brooks is doing well for himself. Not content with getting his zombie apocalypse novel ‘World War Z’ turned into a Hollywood blockbuster, Brooks has now worked with Spanish artist Raulo Caceres to turn his zombie/vampire mash-up novella, ‘The Extinction Parade’, into a series of graphic novels. Volume 1 of ‘The Extinction Parade’ considered here, collects together the first five comics in the series from Avatar Press.
The original novella was published in Brooks’ collection ‘Closure Limited And Other Zombie Tales’, which I reviewed for SFCrowsnest at the tail end of last year. This graphic novel version is pretty faithful to the original plot, covering probably the first three quarters of the novella’s storyline.
‘The Extinction Parade’ is set in contemporary Malaysia, just as the zombie apocalypse takes hold. Where it differs from most zombie stories is that the protagonists are a nameless pair of female vampires. Prior to the zombie outbreak, they were increasingly frustrated by the growth of the Malaysian middle class. Murder one of them for their blood and the authorities will soon be notified that they’re missing. So our vampires have to choose their victims carefully. The poor and homeless always make for an easy victim who won’t be missed but their blood doesn’t taste very sweet. The rich and complacent middle class make a delicious snack but you have to make their death look like a robbery or suicide to avoid inconvenient investigations. All very tedious.
When zombies start springing up all over Malaysia, it seems that vampire Christmas has arrived. As society starts to breaks down, people panic, the forces of law and order lose control and our two vampires start to feed on whoever they like, whenever they like. The zombies don’t recognise vampires, since their hearts don’t pump blood round their bodies. Equally, the vampires don’t feed on the zombies as their virus-infected blood is poisonous. So the two species passively co-exist, both feeding from the same bowl.
There’s just one problem. Most of the vampires are terminally short-sighted, never thinking beyond their next kill. One of our heroines, however, takes a slightly longer view. As she watches the global news coverage, reporting on the zombie apocalypse as it happens, she starts to wonder what will happen to the vampires’ only food source if zombies take over the world. What will the vampires do when the last living human is turned into one of the undead? Should she and her kind change the habit of a lifetime and start protecting the remaining humans from the oncoming zombie horde?
This graphic novel provides a beautiful rendering of an interesting story. I really enjoyed the unconventional take on the zombie apocalypse as seen through the eyes of another undead species whose world is just as much at risk, if only they would realise it, as that of the humans they feed upon.
I have two criticisms of the graphic novel. The first concerns the pace of the story, which I found rather slow in the middle chapters. I think the story arc could easily have been compressed down to four chapters, rather than the present five, without the loss of anything important. The second relates to the personalities of our two protagonists. I understand that these are ‘proper’ vampires, not the namby-pamby versions too often seen in recent paranormal fiction and films. They don’t have souls or consciences and like nothing more than ripping the throat out of a human as they beg for mercy. That’s all fine as far as it goes but it doesn’t make our would-be heroines very heroic to a human audience. My recollection is that Brooks handled this problem better in the novella, probably through the greater use of interior monologue to give the reader a more subtle understanding of our vampires’ motivations than is possible in the medium of the graphic novel. As ever, different media have different strengths and weaknesses.
The artwork by Raulo Caceres is one of the strengths. It is full of vividly visceral gory details and not for the faint-hearted. It does, though, pull the original novella right off the page, with both line-work and colour combining to bring the undead to gruesome life. The extras at the end of the graphic novel include some wonderful cover art and previews of the artwork from Volume Two. You’ll want to look at these paintings time and again.
‘The Extinction Parade, Volume 1’ turns Brooks’ novella into a visual feast. If you’ve enjoyed Brooks’ other work on the page or the big screen then you’ll want to get hold of this graphic novel. I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel, ‘War’.
(pub: Titan Books/Avatar Press. 160 page graphic novel softcover. Price: £14.99 (UK), $19.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-59291-234-6)
check out website: www.titanbooks.com