Love can be a real monster some days, but what happens when a spouse in a failing marriage turns into a zombie? In The Empties, writer Kristen Renee Gorlitz explores this intriguing concept, meshing the personal and horrific into a fast-paced and dramatic read.
Derrick, a chef, comes home one night early to surprise his wife Helen. He’s the one who is surprised when Helen tells him she wants a divorce – and the man she’s having an affair with, his business partner, is still in their house. What ensues is a desperate attempt by Derrick to rescue their crumbling marriage. The one thing Derrick didn’t count on was the living turning into zombies, and, suddenly, he needs to save not only his relationship, but also his flesh-craving wife.
Like much zombie horror, there is quite a bit of meaning behind the events which unfold in The Empties. One can easily dissect the symbolism and connections between Derrick and Helen’s marriage and the looming apocalypse, some of which is taking place in their own home. With Helen quickly deteriorating, Gorlitz does a phenomenal job of balancing the ugliness of her world while still presenting a strong female character at the center of the graphic novel. Though it’s obvious Derrick has been quite neglectful as a husband, it’s hard not to empathize with him as he struggles to help Helen.
The artwork is beautiful in black and white, bringing a certain viciousness to the panels that need it, while demonstrating restraint in the tender moments. There are subtleties that deserve a careful study, with gorgeous interludes to carry the reader from one emotion to the next. For a graphic novel that has a lot of information on each page, artist Eli Powell manages to create something that could stand on its own as a story, even if there were no words to narrate.
The Empties is, overall, a heartbreaking, emotional, and thought-provoking graphic novel set against the backdrop of one of our biggest contemporary horrors: the zombie apocalypse. It is a definite must read, with plenty of gore, chills, and disturbing images for the most discerning horror lover.
Creative Team: Writer – Kristen Renee Gorlitz; Artist – Eli Powell; Letters – Marshall Dillon; Cover – Jeanne Vadenboncoeur
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