Tony Fyler attends a kegger. Feels a little out of place.
There’s a risk, when you slam pop culture icon-groupings together, that they become instantly much much lamer than either are in their own environment – to borrow briefly from Red Dwarf, there’s a chance that what you think might be quite fun turns rapidly into Revenge of the Surboarding Killer Bikini Vampire girls, or, in rather sadder real life, that it becomes something along the lines of Horne and Corden’s Lesbian Vampire Killers, a fate no self-respecting artist or writer should ever have to suffer.
Sorority Girls Vs Zombies, issue #1 from Approbation Comics, the independent comic-book label which brought us HASS, is odd in that it’s pretty much trying to have its brains and eat them. Yes, it’s got sassy, sharp-tongued, ass-kicking sorority girls. But there’s something intentionally cheesy about the way, for instance, their biographies all include their bust sizes, and the gratuitous upskirt shots make it feel like kickass feministic zombie-slaying from a distinctly male-orientated* viewpoint. We could witter on endlessly about how it’s postmodern, tongue-in-cheek, how it knows what it’s doing, and that’s all very well, it absolutely does – in case there’s any doubt of that, it comes with a disclaimer and a handy interview with writer B. Alex Thompson, in which it’s more or less stated that it’s intentionally cheesy. But that doesn’t necessarily make it funny, or make the dialogue believable, or make any of the characters particularly likeable – that’s work that still needs to be done, and reading the first issue, I’m not a hundred percent convinced it’s work that’s been put in.
It’s worth saying at this point that the comic-book has no need for me to like it or be convinced it works – it has plenty of fans, and became a relatively runaway success from its one-line concept. But for me, there’s not enough here to invest in. It’s obvious early on that the douchebag frat boys will become douchebag zombies, but the sorority girls themselves break down into easy pop-culture stereotypes – smart-mouthed badass, book-smart girl trying to broaden her outlook, and the dim but honest one – that don’t especially engage or challenge the reader. We understand why they’ve become pop culture stereotypes, but to make them work, you’ve got to give them something beneath a brief bio-line, and it’s in this need for a third dimension that they’re lacking, at least in this first issue.
One to avoid then?
Well hold on, not so fast there. The artwork, by Christian Duce and Martin Coccolo, is good, albeit good with a kind of grindhouse vibe. And standing head and shoulders above the actual sorority girls we’re supposed to root for are the ‘chorus of the witches,’ three unnamed black girls who deliver a delicious commentary on some of the action, and who, when exposed to the casual racism of the chief douchebag, prepare to lay down a ton of thunder on him. Gleefully, they survive the first issue, so it gives us hope that they develop a wider role and ideally names in future issues, because they’re far more engaging than the nominal stars of the piece.
Does Sorority Girls Vs Zombies #1 work, then? Hmm… yes and no. It’s got some weaknesses, particularly in delivering the dialogue of believable sorority girls for whom a readership would necessarily want to cheer. It delivers just about enough to buy itself a second-issue curiosity, not least to see which way it’s going to drive the creative direction of its narrative, and whether it can meld the big block of cheese at its core through enough pop culture to pick up some of the good stuff while running over some brain-chomping bastards. It would be good to see issue #2 to get a clearer idea of that direction, but if you have some cash burning a hole in your pocket, pick it up – but only AFTER Thompson’s other comic-book, HASS. If you only have the money for one, get that in half a heartbeat. If you can afford both, get both and see whether the Sorority Girls make you laugh and engage.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk