The New Deadwardians TPB – Dan Abnett

3 out of 5

The rating kinda notwithstanding, this is a really fun series.  The rating withstanding, it has two major strikes against it: the rigor mortis-infected art of I.N.J. Culbard, who uses a heckuva lot more detail at this stage in his career versus his modern work but still can’t stick to perspective or draw action in any serviceable fashion, and… writer Dan Abnett proposes a fantastic mystery but sort of reroutes to a larger one, leaving the resolution to the prior as an unfortunate after-the-fact note.

Here’s the pitch, wonderfully elevator-y but that’s where Abnett’s 2000 AD schooling comes in to ground the thing and make it more than the sum of the following sentence: an alternate post-Victorian England in which the sudden appearance of zombies (the ‘restless’) has prompted some government officials – police included – to take a cure… which, wouldn’t ya know, turns them into vampires (the ‘young’… and no, no one ever pairs the terms in dialogue, so that joke is pleasingly left to the sidelines).  Instead of harping on this or hiding it for two long, Dan gets the premise out of the way pretty early so he can focus on more interesting resultant factors: a murder of a particular ‘young,’ absent of the usual burns / stakes evidence, and brewing discontent between the cured in Zone A and the regular folk (‘brights’) sequestered in Zone B.  The world just grows naturally as we flip from page to page, following detective Suttle’s investigations into the aforementioned murder as he off-handedly muses on the world, and the way its changed for him since becoming one of the young.

Dan paces out his mystery effectively, but inevitably it leads to bigger things, which necessitates twists and reveals and that mystery’s resolution happens somewhere in the background.  Thankfully that’s not until the very last section of the collection (of a series which, sadly, never continued), giving us plenty of pages to get in to the era of The New Deadwardians.