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101 Ways To Kill A Zombie
posted October 9, 2013

imageCreators: Robb Pearlman, Dave Urban
Publishing Information: Universe, hardcover, 96 pages, October 2013, $14.95.
Ordering Numbers: 0789324830 (ISBN10), 9780789324832 (ISBN13)

There are a lot of books like 101 Ways To Kill A Zombie that hit the market in the Fall. They are essentially gift books, stocking stuffers: something you might purchase for an office mate or family member that has shown a kind of passionate interest in a specific subject. They occupy the backs of toilets across America from January until May; they're even formatted in a way they can rest there without hanging over or otherwise getting in the way. I receive about a half-dozen such works every year, and that's without being a proper place for such books to end up. I can't even imagine how many book reviewers receive or how many get crammed onto the bookstore shelves in the six weeks after Labor Day.

I can't really endorse this book -- it is exactly what is advertised, and what is advertised here is more sleep aid than garden of delights for this particular reader -- but I thought it was a far better than an average member of its species. One place where genre comics and humor overlap is that execution plays a crucial and for some reason still under-appreciated role in whether or not something works. 101 Ways To Kill A Zombie actually develops the central idea as opposed to illustrating it over and over until the back cover hits. The Dave Urban art is authoritative, clear and possessed of an attractive style, all of which add up to an important factor if you're going to have someone read a book in big gulps. The Pearlman/Urban team turns out to have decent batting average gag-wise; they pivot off of about a half-dozen different constructions. I liked about a third of their jokes overall, or at least recognized them as jokes, which is a really high percentage. The killings are played mostly straight, and star what looks like the same zombie over and over again; the latter half of the book features jokes that are built through the rhythms and general static quality of the earlier pages. The methods of our hero's destruction run the gamut from the any-12-year-old-would-have-figured-it kind to the more absurd -- a light touch being another key when you're asking someone to spend time with a paper-thin concept -- but no single aspect or set of killings seems overplayed.

So yeah, this book kind of works in a way that most don't. It's a modest victory, but this time of the year and given the high degree of cynicism that seems to drive so much of the material that hits the stands, any victory counts.