The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics

Writers, artists: Various

Edited by David Kendall

Running Press, $19.00, B&W, 480 pages

This book has been out for five years, so I normally wouldn't review it (although I just read it). But it disappointed me enough that I wanted to pass that on.

I've already got two of the mammoth Mammoth line of mammoth collections from Running Press, which collect all kinds of stories, some of them comics (always in B&W, presumably to keep the price point low). They were good enough that I ordered TMBOZC when I was writing about the huge number of zombie stories in comics (as opposed to other media) when World War Z came out.

It didn't take me long to figure out that the book wouldn't be much help.

For one thing, I had expected at least a few pre-Code stories that had fallen into the public domain, but there was none of that. The contents is comprised almost entirely from small indie labels from the mid-2000s. No offense to publishers like Calibre, After Hours Press and Slave Labor, but the creators who contribute here are usually at the beginning of their careers or are outright amateurs. A couple of these stories appear to have never appeared in print before at all. There's one 8-pager written by Steve Niles, but for the most part these are fairly obscure creators.

Further, someone decided that "zombie" would include any kind of reanimated flesh, so -- for example -- there's a 64-page story about a mummy! Necrotic: Dead Eyes Open, by Buddy Scalera, first appeared at Slave Labor Graphics in 2005-06. To be honest, I was so disinterested that I found it hard to push myself through it. It literally took me three attempts to finish.

There's one big exception to all of the above: Pigeons from Hell, an adaptation by Scott Hampton of the classic Robert E. Howard horror story from 1932, which originally appeared at Eclipse in 1988. I have that original story, and it's excellent. Its appearance here is likely because the rights are held by the REH estate, which allowed the story to be reprinted, instead of whoever owns the rights to Eclipse these days.

But, with the exception of Pigeons from Hell, I was greatly disappointed. Maybe it's because TMBOZC didn't include the pre-Code stories I was hoping for, but I think I would still have been happy if what was included was of higher quality.

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