The battle for survival continues.
Video game adaptations have a spotty track record in the comic book medium. That’s to say nothing of the fact that zombie comics are a dime a dozen. So that’s two strikes against Call of Duty: Zombies before the series even begins. But as always, the trick is in finding the right creative team to bring these adaptations to life. And that’s exactly where Call of Duty: Zombies succeeds.
This mini-series hearkens back to Call of Duty: Black Ops II’s zombie mode, focusing on Dr. Richtofen and his four zombie-slaying minions. The comic doesn’t directly adapt the game’s storyline, but instead tells a side-story featuring that familiar cast. The result isn’t a particularly deep comic. As with most zombie stories, survival is the name of the game, and there’s plenty of character banter and gore along the way. The characters themselves are fairly two-dimensional and archetypal. Misty is the cocky hotshot. Marlton is the nerdy scientist. Stuhlinger is the grizzled veteran. And so on. But at least it’s readily accessible regardless of your familiarity with the game.
But though this comic breaks little new ground for the genre, the pieces do come together to form a satisfying whole. Based on his work on the Luther Strode franchise, writer Justin Jordan is uniquely qualified to tell this story of five plucky heroes battling overwhelming odds. Jordan contrasts their warring personalities nicely and creates a tone that’s both darkly humorous and foreboding. Compared to the relatively more grounded approach of something like The Walking Dead, this comic reads like a gleefully over-the-top Grindhouse film.
It’s the art where CoD: Zombies really thrives, however. One might expect a sharp drop in quality going from Simon Bisley’s cover art to the interior pages. But Jonathan Wayshak leaves a strong impression from the first page. His characters are intricately rendered while also being just exaggerated enough to mesh with the book’s B-movie feel. Wayshak’s style is like a cleaner version of Richard Corben’s, and that’s exactly the sort of company you want to be in when it comes to horror comics. The relatively muted colors don’t stand out quite as much as the line art, but in general the visuals do justice to the source material. If more video game comics could say as much, maybe this genre wouldn’t have such a lousy reputation.