The Extinction Parade, Volume 2: War by Max Brooks and Raulo Caceres (graphic novel review).

May 2, 2015 | By | Reply More

When I interviewed Max Brooks in March this year for SFCrowsnest, he was over in London to promote ‘The Extinction Parade, Volume 2: War’. This is the second instalment in the graphic novel adaptation of Brooks’ 2010 short story ‘The Extinction Parade’ and, as with volume 1, which I reviewed here in August 2014, the artwork is provided by Raulo Caceres.

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The story starts as our two unnamed vampire heroines declare war on the undead horde, having realised that if they don’t, there soon won’t be any living humans left for them to feed on. Very few of their fellow vampires have understood this basic truth yet, due to a combination of arrogance and complacency, so our two leads face an uphill struggle on their own. Night after night, they punch hundreds of zombies to death but every day they have to hide away from the Sun, only to find hundreds more zombies shambling around when they reappear the following night. They also have to spend time finding live humans to feed from in order to renew the strength they’ve lost in combat and they need to stay covered in waterproof clothing from head to foot to keep themselves protected from all the zombie blood they spill, as it is highly poisonous to vampires.

Just as they are starting to despair about the futility of their efforts, they are joined by a fellow vampire called Adilah. Unlike most of their kind, who are generally incapable of thinking up new ideas for themselves, preferring simply to imitate human innovations, Adilah has invented her own martial art. Called ‘Skull Dancing’, it uses vampires’ athletic abilities, jumping high into the air before landing feet first on the head of your zombie target and crushing its skull. Done well, it’s far more effective and a lot less tiring than hand to hand combat. Our heroines, however, find it difficult to learn this new skill, unaccustomed as they are to doing things differently. Nonetheless, they eventually get to grips with Adilah’s new approach, just in time for it to be rendered seemingly irrelevant when they meet a new group of vampires who have armed themselves with swords.

Decapitating zombies with a blade is much easier and quicker than punching or kicking them to death, so our heroines join the new group. However, although their nights initially become more productive, the swords eventually break or lose their sharpness and the group starts to waste increasing amounts of time locating new weapons, particularly when some of the vampires get image conscious and insist on using the type of weapon most closely associated with the country or ethnic group they originated from when alive. On one such quest for new swords, they encounter another group of vampires who are battling the zombie horde using guns. Suddenly, swords seem just as old-fashioned as feet or fists.

At each stage of the story, our two heroines are initially excited by the new weapons they are shown but soon see that most of their fellow vampires regard their attacks on the zombies as entertainment rather than a war of survival. Can they make their kin understand the stakes or are they destined to end up on the losing side?

‘The Extinction Parade, Volume 2: War’ takes an element of the original prose short story that was dealt with in less than a couple of pages and expands it in a really interesting way, focusing on the vampires’ main weakness in a war against zombies, which is their lack of any independent vampire culture. As the story develops, it becomes clear just how much they resemble bloodsucking leeches, in figurative terms at least, taking whatever they need from humanity and creating absolutely nothing of their own. They find it virtually impossible to solve the simplest of problems, such as how to reload an empty gun with the right calibre of ammunition, unless they have personally witnessed a human performing the same task. Improvising a solution is an alien concept to vampires. Brooks and Caceres illustrate with increasing emphasis just how massive a weakness this is when the zombie apocalypse destroys every vestige of normal human society, leaving the vampires rudderless.

Raulo Caceres’ art is just as visceral, vibrant and immersive as in the previous volume, placing the reader right in the middle of the conflict between vampires and zombies. The twenty page art gallery at the back of the book is worth the price of admission on its own.

There were two aspects of the graphic novel that I was less convinced by. As with the first volume, I found it difficult to invest emotionally in the two vampire heroines. They continue to view living humans merely as mobile food stores, which makes them pretty unsympathetic lead characters for any readers who aren’t themselves members of the undead. They also seem to be almost invulnerable, which takes away the crucial element of danger that underpins most human war narratives, where the heroes or heroines could face death at any moment.

‘The Extinction Parade, Volume 2: War’ is another highly successful collaboration between Max Brooks’ words and Raulo Caceres excellent art. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to the concluding volume.

Patrick Mahon

May 2015

(pub: Avatar Press. 158 page graphic novel. Price: £14.99 (UK), $19.99 (USA). ISBN: 978-1-59291-255-1)

check out websites: www.avatarpress.com and www.maxbrooks.com

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Category: Comics, Horror

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