"The New Deadwardians," described as vampires versus zombies in post-Victorian England, doesn't sound terribly exciting given the glut of vampire and zombie stories out there. Quite frankly I'm already up to my ears in vampires and zombies. However, writer Dan Abnett and newcomer artist I.N.J Culbard do something wonderful in this first issue of "The New Deadwardians" that has me second-guessing all those preconceptions.
Abnett and Culbard breathe new and welcome life into this concept with their first issue, building a fascinating world that answers many questions, but presents even more. The post-Victorian setting is a stroke of brilliance as it instantly gives the story a unique perspective and tone. Both Abnett and Culbard do wonders with the time period and world building including being very smart about the nomenclature of the undead. In this more "civilized" society, zombies are called The Restless and Vampires, The Young.
There's an intractable darkness to this "civilization" in that it's primarily the upper class that has turned themselves into The Young in order to escape the lower classes, which have largely turned into The Restless. All of this lends itself beautifully to any number of interesting horrors.
Brilliant world-building aside, "The Deadwardians" is a detective story at heart, and our lead Detective (Suttle), who is also one of The Young, catches a perplexing case in this first issue: the dead body of one of The Young has been dumped in a public place and beyond everything else looms the question of how something has managed to kill the unkillable.
Abnett's writing is deliciously understated and reserved, capturing just the right tone for both the period feel and detective genre. That subtle tone also proves to be a nice match for this tale, contrasting with the usual high and more frantic zombie and vampire stories, making for a genteel, nuanced and surprisingly refreshing change of pace.
Newcomer Culbard absolutely nails the visuals here and making for an expertly chosen creative team. If this book had a more superhero comic look to it or something less deliberate and subtle, it could have thrown the whole delicate balance off. The results, including Culbard and Patricia Mulvihill's desaturated and gloomy palette are perfection. Some of the backgrounds seem a bit light on detail, but the book is otherwise lovely.
Vertigo has been making a big push with their four new books launching this month and this is easily the best of the bunch. Unique and highly enjoyable, "The New Deadwardians'" fresh take on vampires and zombies will make you rethink all you thought you knew.