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The New Deadwardians Paperback – February 12, 2013
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“The post-Victorian British drama of Downton Abbey has proven popular among Americans. So just imagine the aristocratic intrigue if you tossed vampires and zombies into the mix.”—USA Today
“Unique and highly enjoyable, "The New Deadwardians'" fresh take on vampires and zombies will make you rethink all you thought you knew.”—Comic Book Resources
“I can safely say that it is not only the best new Vertigo book, but quite possibly the best series of the year. Everything about it is near perfection.”—IGN
“This is a beautiful book and one that you, all of you, should be buying and reading.”—IGN
About the Author
Dan Abnett lives and works in Maidstone, Kent. After graduating from Oxford, he worked for a while as an editor of comics and children's books before turning to writing full time. In the dozen or so years since then, he has written for such a diverse range of characters--including Scooby Doo, Thunderbirds, Conan the Barbarian, The X-Men, Johnny Bravo, Batman, Rupert the Bear, Dr Who, Mr. Men, The Terminator and Postman Pat--that he is now clinically bewildered. He created the popular series Sinister Dexter, which he continues to write, along with other strips, for 2000 AD, and has recently helped rejuvenate RESURRECTION MAN for DC Comics.
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The world of "The New Deadwardians" is set in Post-Victorian England. The dead now walk the earth and consume the living, as they are want to do. To combat the threat of the restless, the zombies, the royal army takes "the cure" which turns them into vampires. Because the young, what the vampires are called because of their eternal life, are dead, the restless, who feed on life, pay them no attention. The story picks up after the war. The affluent of society, mostly consisting of the young, live in Zone A, while all the rest of society is cordoned off in Zone B.
The central character of "The New Deadwardians" is Chief Inspector George Suttle. George is of the Young, and the only remaining member of the Zone A murder squad, because that which does not live cannot be killed; right? It is this question that becomes the central theme for the story. In his hunt for the truth, George not only uncovers a shocking secret about the empire, he also learns more about himself, and his humanity, which he had believed long gone.
The strongest aspect of "The New Deadwardians" is the writing, and how effective a narrator George Suttle turns out to be. Because of his dour nature, time in the military, and immortal status, George's insights on the situation and humanity as a whole come from a perspective not often seen in comics. A few issues in and you will be able to tell who is of the young, and who is bright, or a normal human, just by reading their dialogue. that is how strong a handle Dan Abnett has on these characters.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the artwork in this series. I.N.J. Culbard deserves all the credit in the world for how expertly this series is drawn. He deftly conveys characters emotions, or lack there of, which when combined with the precise, elegant nature of Abnett's story, gives this books a brisk pace. The only nitpick I have with the art is that in a few of the more kinetic conflicts, I felt they came off a little flat. That is a minor gripe however, and very well may be an issue other people won't have.
"The New Deadwardians" is a fresh take on well tread subject matter, that has peerless writing, incredible artwork, and was one of last years best series. It is an incredible read, and a must buy.
This book is beautifully colored, well-drawn, and consistently clever.
One of the best comics of recent memory, subtly satirical and not so subtle at times.
References first-wave feminism, the inequalities of industrialism, British imperialism...
I’m going to talk about some details that bothered me later in the review so if you don’t want to read spoilers because you’re thinking of reading it and you just want a yay or nay, my takeaway of The New Deadwardians is that it’s not a bad murder mystery which has some excellent art but is a bit overlong and a bit thin, plot-wise. If you enjoy supernatural police procedurals, it’s not bad and the set-up is certainly different, even if the protagonist is more than a bit bland. I didn’t love it but, considering the other titles Vertigo is currently offering, it’s up there as one of the better ones to read.
Ok, so: spoilers.
The set-up isn’t totally correct; there are vampires and there are zombies but there are also humans. Quite a few, in fact - they’re called the “Bright”. I really like Dan Abnett’s labelling of the different types of people in this world, “the Young”, “the Bright”, “the cure” – they feel like titles that perfectly belong to the post-Victorian era.
But much is made of Suttle being a redundant figure – a homicide detective in a world where homicides are so rare that he’s the last cop in that department. This makes sense if there are just zombies and vampires – but humans also exist. Humans can die. Are they saying that humans can’t die for some reason, or they don’t murder anymore? Or maybe Suttle and the rest of “the Young” don’t investigate human murders? If that’s the case, why even have a department if murder amongst the dead and undying is practically extinct? It’s a glaring error that’s never corrected and which stuck out for me the entire time I was reading this.
I also didn’t think much of our protagonist, Suttle. He’s a stoic, practical man with very little inner life or personality who goes through the motions in a dry, dull manner. He’s efficient and good at his job but that sort of person is often the worst person to cast as the lead in a dramatic story – there’s very little conflict to be had with his character. Occasionally a character emerges but for the most part he’s forgettable and boring.
Add to that, Suttle becomes the villain in the end! The antagonist behind the initial murder is a magician who, decades ago, cast a spell to resurrect Queen Vic’s dead hubby, Albert, but the spell went wrong and - poof! - zombies appeared! The magician was forced into doing this and killing off the snobby aristos was his revenge to make them pay for destroying the world. That doesn’t make the magician a villain in my mind – quite the opposite! And Suttle going along with the conspiracy at the end to pin it all on the magician and label him as a lone madman… yeah, he’s no hero, he’s just another failed cog in a broken machine.
So what was the point? A murder mystery set in a post-zombie-apocalypse world where those in power are totally corrupt and those charged with capturing the baddies are equally corrupt – so, all of the New Deadwardians are scum? Bit banal, but alright, I guess…
At eight issues, the already-thin plotline was stretched too far and should’ve been six issues at most, if not shorter. Abnett’s writing isn’t bad but too many issues – like the foray into the English countryside – could’ve easily been dropped as they added next to nothing to the story, besides showing how even more blighted old Blighty had become. INJ Culbard’s art is fantastic as it always is – lovely clear lines, great character designs that capture the era well, and an interestingly distorted London all serve to make this a visually brilliant book.
The New Deadwardians is an ok murder mystery that I enjoyed parts of and found other parts somewhat tedious. For all the space devoted to explaining this strange new world, a lot of it remained a mystery when it really shouldn’t have. I suppose you could do worse with other Vertigo titles but it’s still not a must-read.