On the Far Side With Dead Folks #3, June 2003, Avatar Press
writer: Joe R. Lansdale (based on his story On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks)
artist: Timothy Truman
editor in chief: William Christensen
creative director: Mark Seifert
I swear, Halloween is taunting me. I can't go to the store without buying some creepy little trinket, and I can't read two comics without coming across some witch, ghost, or goblin. The Darkness was possessed. The Naoki Urasawa sampler was haunted. Even the lead tale from Wednesday's Looney Tunes issue featured a mad scientist and the lovable big red monster Gossamer. Today's offering, On the Far Side With Dead Folks, is strictly a zombie story. I wonder if I'll find a graphic novel or two featuring turkeys come Thanksgiving.
I assume Dead Folks #3 is the last of a three issue mini, because its ending is quite Shakespearean, if you know what I mean. If you don't, (spoiler alert) everybody dies, and by everybody, I mean the three characters we follow for a harrowing sixteen page escape from the clutches of a bloodthirsty pack of zombies holed up in some amusement park in the middle of an otherwise vast, vacant desert. (No, it's not Magic Mountain, but that's a good guess.) Interestingly, these wayward heroes don't destroy the undead denizens, other than the ones diligently pursuing them. They don't kill the head zombie which in turn destroys all the zombies, as many stories like this go. Unless I completely missed something, the humans simply flee with their lives, which seems good enough for them . . .
. . . except for when the girl turns out not to be a human, and after one of the men mercifully kills her, he guns down the other, a lowlife by the name of Calhoun, in a good old-fashioned shoot out. A scrap of narrative reveals that Calhoun has a bounty on his head, but apparently the reward doesn't matter in the end, because the bounty hunter offs himself, as well. The title of this series, which is the best part of the book if you ask me, should be Nothing BUT Dead Folks, 'cause that's what we're left with, when all's said and done. I don't get it, but I suppose that's what the the two issues before this episode are for. Sometimes we readers take the whole "here's what happened last time" shtick for granted.
Timothy Truman is a fine artist, but his work in this issue doesn't pack the horrific punch that a zombie chase would normally entail. The issue's stunning lack of color or even grayscale is a definite detractor; with such a beautifully rendered cover, I expected more illustrative depth from the interior. Understandably, Truman's focus may have been on the suspense and momentum of the heroes' fast-paced pursuit, wherein the macabre nature of the zombie army falls somewhat by the wayside. With an airplane crash and a car chase with a big rig in the mix, he definitely has plenty else to work with. They can't all be Thriller, I suppose.
I'll confess a curiosity about the short story from which this series was based, but it's a mild one. I can't imagine how this installment would've read sans pictures, since the whole zombies-on-our-tails thing is a very visual concept. Plus, without the context of the whole story, I really don't know where this "far side" is. I'd like to know. With Halloween popping up everywhere else in my life of late, the "far side" is the last place I need to end up.