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The New Deadwardians
posted February 25, 2013
 

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Creators: Dan Abnett, INJ Culbard
Publishing Information: DC/Vertigo, softcover, 176 pages, February 2013, $14.99
Ordering Numbers: 1401237630 (ISBN10), 9781401237639 (ISBN13)

This is a collection of the first few issues of a Vertigo series of very recent vintage. I'm not sure if the series' raison d'etre is its story or its setting or if the two are intertwined, but what we get here in this first trade is a pretty standard murder mystery set against the backdrop of a re-imagined Edwardian era where the upper classes become vampires in order to make themselves distinct from the lower classes, many of whom are zombies. That's a hell of a sentence to type out. I would imagine that this gets a slight boost for the current Downton Abbey-driven fixation on serial period costume dramas with a special interest in class. The New Deadwardians is a slightly different animal, and not just for the monsters and the super-clever title.

imageThe New Deadwardians failed for me in a very basic way: it never cohered for me into anything greater than the sum of its genre-twist parts, and it failed to provide revelatory or satisfying moments along the way. Your mileage may vary. I would imagine that a more favorable reading might depend on the interest one has in seeing this kind of genre-play. At the point in my life, I don't need a clever idea as much as I need to see it put to use. I didn't remember the lead character's name five minutes after shutting the covers. I remember that he had sex -- something that many of these vampires opt out of doing, and thus one of the more intriguing genre tweaks -- and beat up some people. I'm just not sure I remember why. There's no moment of beautiful execution in writing or in art here, an instance of exquisite detail that might match what comes out of the art direction, acting and script work of one of the televised dramas when they're really cooking. A lot of the backgrounds in this comic are dropped in a way that throws all focus on the characters and how they interact, but there's nothing about those moments -- or the characters -- that I found particularly arresting.

In the end, The New Deadwardians becomes broader in its unfurling than the genre on which it riffs, a selection of works that are practically frying-pan blunt to begin with. Perhaps in future issues the exaggeration that comes with using monsters in the place of people, or a display of universality that arises from recasting roles in scarier garb, finds a greater purpose. But here the monsters just seemed monsters, albeit in fancy dress.

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