As someone who spends a lot more time reading than I do watching television, I find that I always have this compulsion to read the book first when I hear about a movie or television show based on a book. This tends to mean that my to-read list just grows by the day but it’s fun to see how creators’ visions are translated from print to a more visual medium. This is particularly true of graphic novels since the art often gives it a certain art style that may or may not translate well to the silver screen. I hadn’t even heard of the graphic novel series iZombie before the release of the television show on CW but given that it’s finally coming to Netflix this month, I figured it would be the perfect time to see what it’s all about. iZombie is written by Chris Roberson and illustrated by Michael Allred and due to being cancelled early is just four slim volumes.
iZombie is the story of a young woman named Gwen who wakes up one day to find out that she’s a zombie. Not the shambling “braaaaaains” kind but an intelligent zombie who is fully capable of walking amongst the living. Gwen uses her day job as a grave digger to keep her zombie side sated with the brains of the recently deceased. Unfortunately for her, eating the brains of the dead gives Gwen visions of their lives and emotions. Some of these dead have unresolved problems that they expect Gwen to solve in return for providing her with dinner. Along with her two best friends, Ellie the ghost girl and Scott the were-terrier, Gwen tries to balance having a regular life with solving the mysteries of the dead. As the series continues, it morphs from an undead detective series to an apocalyptic monster battle that Gwen and her friends get dragged into. By the end of the series, it’s up to Gwen to decide how much of a true monster she can bear to be if it means saving the world.
I have to admit that while I didn’t dislike iZombie, it really isn’t one that hooked me. The art style is distinctive and brilliantly colored but it’s just such a hipster character drama. Until the final volume when everyone gets sucked into an apocalyptic monster battle, the focus of the series is on Gwen trying to hide her monster status from the family that thinks she’s still dead, her coworkers at the cemetery and her new boyfriend who just so happens to be part of a society of monster hunters. It has moments where it’s parodying standard Scooby Doo style mystery elements and is damned funny. But there’s also a lot of drama. Gwen and her friends are supposed to be college age but there are a number of times that they feel a lot more like high school students. Not least of which is the valley girl accent adopted by a group of sorority vampire sisters who end up causing problems for Gwen and her friends. It occasionally felt just a little too over the top for me.
This series also requires a huge suspension of disbelief. There are a lot of things in iZombie that if you pause to think about, don’t make any sense. Like how exactly a man who has been raised from birth to hunt and kill monsters could fail to recognize his new girlfriend as the walking dead. Or how literally no one notices the fact that Gwen looks noticeably different from everyone else and almost never eats anything (because she’s full on brains). There are a fair number of these pesky little questions so it’s best to try to turn off your brain and just enjoy the ride. And it actually is an entertaining ride as Gwen runs into all kinds of different monsters and even an undead special agent team commissioned by a certain dead president. The Dead Presidents were easily my favorite characters in the entire series.
It’s unfortunate that this series was cut short because honestly it’s pretty good. If you don’t mind character drama, it’s a fun and quirky take on the monster theme. But thanks to having to cram everything into the last volume, the ending feels rushed and occasionally confusing. It’s really too bad that Roberson and Allred didn’t get a chance to tell the story at their pace. iZombie is a series that I’d recommend if you enjoy silly monster stories and character dramas because at least it’s not the same old monster story that you so often see over and over again. Its quirkiness and unique artwork certainly make it worth picking up if you enjoy new takes on the same old monsters.