Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine, Stefano Gaudiano and Rain Beredo
Lettering by Saida Temofonte
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Even when telling a story based on a simple premise - in the case of DCeased, a paint-by-numbers zombie outbreak - Tom Taylor will find the cool moments and creative spins to make it interesting. Even when dealing in blatant tropes or corniest one-liners, he’ll find a way to not just make them work, but to make readers genuinely care along the way.
Much like Injustice before it, you’ll get the most out of DCeased if you just accept this isn’t canon and strap yourself in for the twists, turns, and liberties that the book takes. And there are plenty of surprises in the form of the body count Taylor has already inflicted: Alfred mourns after putting down the core members of the Bat-family, Harley discovers a violent sense of closure with the Joker, while the normal indefatigable Superman must come to terms with the heavy costs of those he couldn’t save.
This is a book built on moments, checking in some key groups while taking every opportunity to fit in another corner of the wider DCU. We’ll have one scene of Superman, Green Arrow, and the new Green Lantern interacting, while another scene will switch gears to show how devastating the zombie outbreak is on Aquaman in the kingdom of Atlantis. Because there is so much ground to cover, the pace is quickened, but there are still moments of deep emotional impact, even if they are confined to only one or two panels. It’s a balancing act that Taylor gets mostly right.
The only thing lacking in terms of impact are the truly horrific opportunities that aren’t completely seized by the story or the art team. Trevor Hairsine’s art has a natural dark quality to it that lends itself to landscapes of rubble, chaos, and twisted creatures, and while his layouts and use of close-ups or wide angles haven’t lost a step, it feels like his talent doesn’t fully grasp the scope or majesty of the DCU at times. Yes, this is a dark and sometimes somber tale, but there are some segments where the scale seems too small, as with the events in Atlantis with a horrifying Aquaman. But that said, Hairsine does show us what he’s capable of later, when a segment featuring Superman and Pa Kent lands in horrifying and terrific fashion. Hairsine’s art has a knack for capturing when things go to hell, it just needs a bit more consistency moving forward.
While DCeased knows the type of story it wants to tell and unashamedly tells it. Yet it feels like the stakes aren’t high enough because it’s out of continuity, halting our suspension of disbelief just a degree, despite the fact we’ve already seen a zombified Bat-family. Even compared to superhero zombie stories like Blackest Night or the soon-to-be-resurrected Marvel Zombies, DCeased can’t help but feel a little slight in comparison — perhaps also due to its six-issue series length, as compared to a lengthy ongoing like Injustice, which afforded the book much more time to really flesh out and explore creative choices.
Perhaps it’s not the fault of the book itself, but that the zombie genre feels as though it has increasingly little new to say. For what it is, DCeased is great without being an outright triumph. Taylor's writing overshadows Hairsine’s solid but inconsistent art. The characterizations and character moments make the book and most of the shocks still land. But with no lasting consequences, this book still shuffles across the finish line as an entertaining, but disposable, romp.