Almost ten years ago, artist Zack Turner developed a story and after meeting writer Josh Breidbart a couple of years later, the pair began the webcomic Unlife in 2011 that is currently updated twice a week. Turner and Breidbart have self-published the first volume of their independent story, collecting the initial couple of chapters. What starts out as a rather humorous, lighthearted story soon deteriorates into a teeth-gnashingly dark and chaotic zombie apocalypse.
Unlife is constructed around a group of colorful, unique cast of characters. James is the main protagonist who was one of the first people to be bit by a zombie and has joined the world of the undead and is trying to find his place in a society that is barely tolerant of zombie. His parents, little sister, and the family pug dog Radar the Handsome are quirky and fun. His former girlfriend Stacy, along with his family, love him, but paradoxically fear him. James’ friend Bacon is probably the most interesting character of the bunch; his name is Bacon (!) and he hails from small-town America where, apparently, he has never danced nor watched The Simpsons. Although Bacon was raised in a protective community (Think Footloose.), he has embraced his zombie immortality. He isn’t afraid of life: “Dude, I’m already dead. What’s left to be afraid of?”
There are several humorous highlights arising from the presence of zombies in the story. For instance, James was just an average guy, so it is no surprise that he conforms to societal expectations and is the only zombie to wear the ridiculous-looking mouth guard, neck brace, and mittens in public, so that the zombie-phobic populace is slightly more comfortable in James’ presence. He is the only undead person in the story that wears the barbaric protective gear. Of course, this contrasts so well with Bacon’s outspoken and carefree nature.
Countering the humor, there are instances of thought-provoking moments. What if we lived in a society where a loved one is an undead individual. For example, James’ family applies white vapor rub under their noses to mask the smell of James, who is a walking dead corpse. James’ mother continually conveys her concern for her son; however, a few pages after the vapor rub scene, the mother is unhinged and drops a dish when James explains he understands that his mother is phobic and almost touches her hand. In a scene between James and Stacy, while Stacy talks to James about their evening out at a local concert, James sees the residual ghosts of intimate moments he shared with Stacy when he was human. Both examples convey touching and rather sad, heart-wrenching moments.
In the latter half of the volume, the tone becomes darker and more action packed as a group of zombies run amok around town. Although nighttime, the colors are bright, vibrant, and pop against deep shadows, which contrasts with the lighthearted first half of the volume. Ultimately, Turner and Breidbart adeptly balance two halves and integrate them into an entertaining and enjoyable story that has both humor and heart.