By Hunter Camp
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 at 6:00 pm
Key of Z #4 Written by Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert
Art by Aaron Kuder
Colors by Charlie Kirchoff
Letters by Johnny Lowe
Cover by Nathan Fox and Jeromy Cox Evil Ink Comics/BOOM! Studios
Release Date: January 25, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
I’ve read a lot of zombie-themed comic books, but I can honestly say that I’ve never read one quite like Key of Z, and I’m going to tell you right now, from the first issue to the last issue, this series is fantastic.
I’ve been following the creation of the series since 2010 when creators Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Echert first announced that they would be working on a zombie comic that would take place in New York City and encompass a lot of specifics from the area under the working title Subway Seriez, which is still used as the subtitle for Key of Z, as evidenced by the cover of issue three.
In 2010 zombies were everywhere. From the announcement of the televised adaption of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead to DC’s Blackest Night, zombies were dominating popular culture, especially in comics. So, as excited as I was by the prospect of another original title from arguably my favorite writing team, I have to say I was skeptical when it came to reading another comic book about zombies. I was mistaken.
This is not just another zombie comic. Throughout the creative process, Echert and Sanchez were stating that, at its heart, the comic was a revenge story with a lot of human elements, but when a comic features zombies, most of the time the comic is pretty much all about the living dead. But they lived up to their claims. This comic is about Nick Ewing’s quest to avenge the death of his family at the hands of one of the top men in a post-apocalyptic New York City. Leadership over the city is divided into 4 factions, and with rulers that are hungry for power, gang warfare erupts in the streets that are already filled with walking corpses. So, there’s really a lot going on this comic book, so much so that going into the last issue, I thought there was no way that four issues was going to be enough for the story, and I still feel like there’s more to be told after the events of this issue, but more on that later.
The series as a whole stands up as one of my favorite comics of the past year, and with each issue, I was surprised at how good the comic actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved all of the installments of Sanchez’s previous work The Amory Wars, as well as his and Echert’s previous collaboration on the six issue Kill Audio. But a lot of the approach on the previous comics from Evil Ink was either science fiction multi-series epic (The Amory Wars which has seen only two of its, at the very least, four volumes thus far), and a bizarre, insane and downright quirky (Kill Audio), which work for both comics, respectively. So, a zombie story that focuses on revenge in the face of tragedy with a lot of human elements is a far cry from what I had previously read, and came to expect. But boy do they ever have it in them.
While the first two issues seemed to focus more on world building and character motivations, issue three managed to blend the zombie infested world into what became the main story of Ewing finding a friend in an ostracized member of the Lavoe gang, whom Ewing was after. In the third issue, we saw key moments that showed the main character’s overall plan to take down the bad guy and just why he was so filled with rage. The series continued a strong pace throughout each issue that leads us to the ultimate payoff in issue four, which is technically what I’m supposed to be writing about right now. But how could I talk about the fourth issue without telling you how we got here? Anyway, in issue four, we see Ewing’s ultimate plan to take down Lavoe actually taking place in what I can only be described as a beautifully tragic double page spread that show a knock down, drag out, blood soaked fight between two top faction leaders illustrated gorgeously by Aaron Kuder and Charlie Kirchoff, who colored the splash to perfection as a backdrop to some of the most sincere moments given in the series care of the inner monologue as described by Ewing’s journal. This comic does so much with the space that it’s given that I cannot praise the entire series enough. Seriously, the creators of Key of Z are simply doing things in this comic that I’m not seeing anywhere else. If you’re not aware of either the writing team of Sanchez and Echert or the art team of Kuder and Kirchoff, make yourself acquainted, because they are destined to do even greater things in the coming months, I’m sure of it.
If you’ve somehow missed the boat on Key of Z, make sure to pick up the trade paperback when it is released in March. In fact, I strongly suggest that you read all of the issues back-to-back, whether in trade form or in issue form so you can see the gradual growth from zombie comic to revenge plot, it’s handled wonderfully by all parties involved. To make this simple for you, Key of Z is Walking Dead meets Kill Bill, and if that’s not enough to get you to want to read the series, then you’re not invited to birthday party.