"The New Deadwardians" #4 is not quite so clever and interesting as the three issues before it, but it's still a breath of fresh air in a genre that often feels stagnant. Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard have something truly unique with "The New Deadwardians" and that is rare indeed.
These last few issues I've been trying to put my finger on what it is about this book that is just so fun and intriguing, and I think it's not just that the vampire and zombie concepts are re-imagined in such interesting ways (not to mention combined in the same world in a brilliant way) but it's that the portrayal of the "vampires" AKA "the young" is so counter to all the vampires we see elsewhere. There's nothing brooding or sexy about our stuffy lead -- Chief Inspector George Suttle -- in fact he's quite boring. He doesn't have washboard abs, he doesn't sparkle, he's not fighting against his own, or trying to fulfill some great destiny, he's not involved in a devastating love triangle and he's not breaking any new ground. Suttle is just an everyday vampire with a straight job and an infirm mother at home to take care of. And so by taking the extraordinary and making it ordinary, Abnett has done something genius and new.
Abnett also had the good sense to pair with an artist that could bring the exact right tone to this "ordinary" period piece. Stylized and controlled without ever feeling stiff, Culbard's art is in perfect synch with what Abnett is doing and the results are the kind of collaboration most artists and writers look for their entire lives.
All that said, this is not their strongest issue. Culbard's art feels a little inconsistent, especially when it comes to Bowles' face, which I could never quite get a handle on. In general the art feels a little rushed and thin compared to what we have seen in the first three issues.
Additionally, while Abnett delivers a good piece of the ongoing detective story here, and it remains an intriguing one, we're simply at a rather dull center of Suttle's investigation and as a result this issue has less pop than the others. We do get a great peek into Suttle's background, and to a lesser degree when things went awry in the world (apparently it was around '61), but this issue just doesn't sing as the first three did.
Regardless, there is more than enough here to keep readers coming back until the end. Even slightly off its game, "The New Deadwardians" is easily the best offering from Vertigo's new launches, and one of the best from DC period.