On A-Day, Arkham Asylum got destroyed and a lot of villains got killed. Some of those villains—Bane, Man-Bat and Arkham Knight—were turned into zombies and recruited into Task Force Z, a team led by Red Hood. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this title going into it, but it surprised me. So let’s have a look.
I love certain zombie stories, but I’m not necessarily a fan of the zombie genre, because a lot of those stories are too similar, too formulaic. For me, a zombie story has to bring something unique to the table, something that gives it personality and sets it apart from the rest. For example, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) is a movie with zombies, but it’s not about the zombies. We follow a group of survivors that are holing up inside an old shopping mall, and I watch it for these characters, to see how they cope with their situation and how their arcs unfold.
Task Force Z is not a typical zombie horror but, rather, it uses zombie elements mixed with super-heroics. Granted, a book like DCeased has also attempted this, but that comic was about an apocalypse that threatens the entire world. What sets Task Force Z apart is that this is more of a concentrated, black-ops style book where the only zombies are the villains on Red Hood’s team. Jason has to try to keep them under control while completing the mission, which, obviously, is easier said than done.
Rosenberg takes the standard idea of zombies eating people and turns it into a running gag. At first it seems like a silly, throwaway joke, a cliché, but as the story continues it turns out that the zombies’ hunger starts to become a serious problem, setting up a cliffhanger that makes me want to come back next month. Besides that, Rosenberg leans more into humor than I’d expected. Some of the jokes land and others don’t, but none of the comedic beats undercut the overall poignant tone or hinder the pacing for me. In fact, the snappy, comedic dialogue makes for a quick, easy and entertaining read, which is exactly what a book like this needs. With there already being so many grimdark Bat Books out there, I’m glad that Task Force Z doesn’t try to be edgier than it has to be, and instead just wants to be fun.
But not all of the dialogue works well. For example, toward the beginning of the issue, Jason meets the mysterious Ms. Hobart. I find their conversation heavy-handed in its factual exposition and on-the-nose when it tries to delve into a more philosophical topic about redemption. The exchange is too brief to go anywhere and, because it’s so concise, it feels forced. If it’s the writer’s plan to flesh out the theme of redemption over the course of this 12-issue run, then I do appreciate that he introduces the theme early on, but the execution could be better.
The artwork—penciled by Barrows, inked by Ferreira, and colored by Lucas—looks fantastic. The page layouts are dynamic and creative, and still streamlined to help you easily read each page. The characters’ poses and movements and expressions are always appropriate and on-point, and I love especially the scenes where Crazy Quilt is being chased by Man-Bat and Bane, and later confronted with Arkham Knight. Quilt looks absolutely terrified during these moments, and the eerie shadows and crooked ways in which the zombies approach their victims makes for some scary imagery. The sequential action is also great: we see Jason leaping across the pages, and his acrobatic and combat poses are all practical to the situation and make him look good at the same time.
The highlight, though, is the color work by Lucas. When a scene calls for darkness, the colors are muted and add to the creep-factor, blending with Ferreira’s inks nicely. But toward the end, during the fight against Mr. Freeze, stark whites and icy blues take over the pages, creating a pale aesthetic that fits a book about death and undeath well. These final pages are also a nice continuation of the brighter pages earlier in the book, when Jason meets Ms. Hobart in a chamber with a white ceiling, floor and white walls. Had Rosenberg found a way to really tie these two scenes together thematically and narratively, the coloring could’ve become more significant. But on the whole I find that Lucas’ colors are always so effective that they really breathe life into the pages of this zombie book, thereby creating most of the visual tone of the comic. Without him, this book simply wouldn’t be the same.
- You love zombies!
- Suicide Squad isn’t hardcore enough for you.
- You are a Red Hood fan!
Overall: This is a fun first issue. It’s a quick and easy read, very entertaining, and it sets up the plot, stakes and characters effectively. Some of the exposition early on in the issue feels forced, but the comedic beats and action sequences more than make up for this slight misstep. Lucas’ coloring steals the show. Recommended!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.