I enjoyed Faith Erin Hicks’ The War at Ellsmere so much that I wanted to read her previous book. I hadn’t checked it out when it was released last year because I don’t like zombies. Big mistake on my part. Zombies Calling is fun and entertaining.
Joss is a geek struggling with college exams and student loans. Her roommates are Robyn, who’s girl-crazy, and Sonnet, a goth who seems a little more comfortable in her own skin than Joss does. Joss’ main special quality is her love of zombie movies and her resulting understanding of the rules applying to them.
I don’t care much for zombies because too many people seem more interested in how gross they can be than in doing anything substantial with them. Hicks, on the other hand, wants to make a point about the university system and some of its flaws, so the zombies serve a purpose. Plus, I like the way Joss’ knowledge of a specific genre of pop culture works for her. By pointing out the similarities among all the films, Hicks provides a hook for someone like me to appreciate what Joss (and she) sees in them. And her observations were fresh (to me, at least).
I also appreciate the way Hicks gets right to the story. She establishes the characters skillfully and quickly in the first scene, then the action starts. Yet the expected elements are handled as well: the roommates’ disbelief at first, trying to continue with the needs of daily life, working out a survival plan. It kept my interest throughout, even when taking cracks at other zombie stories (“Fast zombies suck!”).
For those complaining that Hicks’ art looks too much like Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work, check this out. While still cartoony, her style here is more detailed than in Ellsmere, although it has the same strong, beautiful ink lines. The character expressions are terrific; I instantly felt like I knew this group and cared about them surviving, which added to the tension and suspense Hicks had already created.
The book also has a short sketch section at the end with Hicks’ comments on how she designed and developed the characters. Find out more at the artist’s website or in this online interview with preview pages included. (The publisher provided a review copy.)