Yeah, I know — this review is late. But hey, so was the book. So let’s explain both, shall we?
The third issue of George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead Act Three didn’t exactly meet its monthly deadline, but there’s good reason for that — artist Andrea Mutti now has a (much-deserved) high profile gig as the regular penciller and inker on Brain Wood’s new long-form historical series for Dark Horse, Rebels, so obviously something in the schedule has to get shunted to the back burner. I would expect, therefore, that the final two issues of Empire will likewise hit shops a week or two after their initial solicitation dates, so we might as well get used to it. Likewise, he’s brought in fellow Italian Roberto Poggi to help out with the inking chores on this series (meaning that, when we include cover painter Francesco Mattina — who does another bang-up job on this issue — we’ve got an all-Italian art team in place now), but fear not : their brush styles are very similar indeed and even on a third or fourth glance through the book it’s pretty hard to tell who inked which particular pages or panels. I believe the world we’re looking for here is seamelss. As for why I’m late with this review, the reasons are far more prosaic : my LCS got shorted on the book and didn’t get in more copies until this past Wednesday. So there ya go.
The biggest news as it relates to this series, though, happened well “off-page” between the last issue and this one — Empire Of The Dead has, perhaps to no one’s surprise, been optioned for television. Sure, sales haven’t been great on this title on the whole, but any zombie project with Romero’s name attached to it is bound to attract Hollywood interest on some level, and while it sounds like it may be a year or two before this finally hits our TV screens, the various press releases related to it definitely give off the confident vibe that it is coming and that this won’t be one of those projects that languishes in development or pre-production hell forever. Or until the rights expire, take your pick. The undead in all their various forms are a hot property right now, and all indications are that the producers want to get the ball rolling with this one as fast as humanly possible. Time will tell, of course, as it always does, but my money is on this turning up on some cable network or other sometime in, say, the tail end of 2016. If I were a betting man, I’d even be willing to place a modest wager on it.
So, hey, that’s all fine and good, but what about what’s happening in the actual comic?
I’m glad you asked, because the shit really is hitting the fan hot and heavy now. Election day has arrived in post-zombie-apocalypse New York, and even though the Federal Reserve back is being robbed, an aerial bombardment is plastering the city, and various members of our rogues gallery, most notably Dixie Peach, can see the writing on the wall and have decided to beat a hasty retreat, Mayor Chandrake’s still got this thing in the bag. Chilly Dobbs was always a pretty worthless wind-up-toy of an opponent, and his backers leave him high and dry before the ballots are even counted. Good thing there’s a bar close by for him to drown his sorrows at.
Chadrake’s victory proves to be short-lived, though, as the entire edifice that is his power structure is crumbling fast. Detective Perez has the workings of the “relocation camp” for kids figured out, and he’s out to bring the whole place down — with Paul Barnum, Dr. Penny Jones, and semi-intelligent zombie Xavier coming to much the same decision, although arrived at of their own accord, more or less simultaneously. Might now be a good time for Chandrake to head for the exit himself? If so, what will be left? And who will be in charge of whatever remains?
These are the burning questions that will be with us as this series finally wraps up, and for those who have been waiting for that always-just-around-the-corner “big payoff,” this is the issue where we start to get it in earnest. Events are moving along at breakneck speed now, and a suitably epic finale appears to be in the works. Those of us who have stuck with this comic are definitely buckled in good and tight for the duration, methinks.
The art, as you can see from these sample pages, looks darn good, Romero’s dialogue is starting to feel a bit less clunky, and the various plot points, disparate as they all were not so terribly long ago, are converging in near-relentless fashion. The zombie-vampire war with humans caught in the middle is upon us, and I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like my idea of a good time!