by Chris Roberson (writer), Mike Allred (art), Laura Allred (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: We’re introduced to the varied, and mostly monstrous, cast of iZombie.

What’s Good: It seems that for many people, the main attraction for this title is the art provided by the Allreds.  Well, rest assured that they most definitely deliver, even in an issue like this one that is fairly understated, without any pyrotechnics and little to no impressive displays of the supernatural.  The world Allred illustrates is a bizarre mixture of horror, indie quirk, and retro pulp that somehow works out.  More importantly, all of the characters look very distinct and well defined.

For example, Gwen, the main character, is made instantly likable due to her awesome character design.  On the other hand, Ellie, her ghostly girlfriend, stands out due to her vintage appearance; Allred makes her seem like a character from a 70s publication.  While the character work is excellent, Allred also brings in some really fun layouts towards the end of the issue that make for some poignancy that Roberson’s script may not have carried otherwise.

As far as Roberson’s script goes, it’s clear that the script rises and falls entirely on the strength of Gwen.  Despite her downer nature, I rather liked her as a character.  She has a sense of humor, despite her sullenness, while the slight gestures to her concealed past certainly intrigue.  Though she definitely falls into the mold of the sassy leading lady, Roberson also adds some interesting idiosyncrasies; Gwen’s strange love for vintage dolls and her painting are nice touches.  I also liked the bits of vulnerability: her lack of self-confidence regarding her artwork, as well as her interesting ideas and relationship with gender.  I really hope that Roberson comes back to that latter point.

Meanwhile, the secondary cast seems relatable and promising.  Ellie and Spot are both fun characters that feel completely human despite their paranormal natures.

What’s Not So Good: This isn’t the slam-bang explosion that Vertigo’s $1.00 first issues usually call for and as such, I can imagine readers already crossing the title off of their pull-lists because of this.  Nothing big happens this month.   It doesn’t help that Vertigo made the weird decision to have the preview for the issue be the last pages of the book, nor that the pace is such that Gwen’s being a zombie is Roberson’s big reveal at issue’s end.

I also think that Roberson needs to be more confident in Gwen.  With Allred’s art and Roberson’s premise being what they are, Gwen is already a naturally likable character.  Her relationships and her position are genuine and unique and she has a strong personality.  Midway through the issue, I’m fairly certain that most readers will like her well enough.  Thus, some of Roberson’s textbox narration is a bit disconcerting; towards the end of the issue in particular, he seems to be trying too hard to make Gwen sound as cool as possible.  The end result begins to feel just a little bit forced.

Lastly, perhaps due to the pace, the issue structure isn’t the greatest.  It’s clear that Roberson’s priority here was in planting seeds for the future and making introductions, not in telling a solid, gripping story.  Thus, when the focus shifts away from Gwen and her friends, particularly to the vampire paintballers in the woods, it feels random and somewhat inconsequential.

Conclusion: I like the characters and I feel a ton of potential here, but at the moment, it’s just that: potential.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans