Graphic Novel Review – Dead Eyes Open
What started out as a purchase for another zombie book, turned out to be something quite different from my expectations. Dead Eyes Open, is a complex book that brings the reader an opportunity to see society thru the eyes of the most unusual of its members…the dead.
The story focuses on the life of one man, or what used to be a man named John Requin. You travel with him thru the most unusual of circumstances. The dead rise but not from their grave. In a very uncommon twist to zombie stories, a person dies and wakes up right away. Of course at that moment they are undead, but they can’t tell the difference. They don’t feel any different, they don’t crave brains, and they don’t succumb to their reptilian brain needs. They just die, return, and keep on walking. They do start decomposing at high temperatures and have a preference for the cold, but they can think, talk and spend money on a shopping mall.
What the author has done with thisstory is take us in a metaphoric vision of prejudice. How we treat each others as human beings when we are part of the many and someone new arrives at the party. We become possessive, agressive, angry and irresponsible. We forget what is like to be different. It is a criticism in my opinion of everyone in society and how once we find a comfort zone in it we become part of the crowd against whoever the hell is coming next. We’ve seen it way too many times; first with the blacks, then the women, then the latinos. Now it’s everybody against the gays. And so it shall go, because we humans are afraid of change. We crave it, but we don’t really want it. It’s just something we say, to sound cool and non conservative.
In this story, our main character goes thru many challenges, stumbling into a position where he can speak for his people, yet must comfront a series of situations that seem to put in harms way the possibility of being accepted as he is: An undead therapist that loves his family and wants to back to his routine. There are other elements such as mass hysteria, terrorist cells, government conspiracies and concentration camps that make this story one of pure historical resemblance, giving it an undead twist.
Matthew Sheperd, the creator of the story, is working other projects for SLG but making comics is not his day job. He’s a copywriter in an ad agency in Quebec, Canada. There is little information about him online, and I can’t really say if this was his first book or not. The book mentions him working on two new projects which I assume are going to be graphic novels.
The art, done by Roy Boney Jr. is his first work in a comic book. He is co-creator of Cherokee Robot, a multimedia company that specializes in creating Native American animations spoken in indigenous languages. I will admit his style is quite unique, but on a personal level I was not particularly attracted by the drawings on my first encounter with the book a few months back. The second time I came across it I took another look and decided to give it a chance. That’s not to say I’m critizicing his style. I can’t draw that well, so I’m in no position to say what he is or isn’t. It’s just something different from the traditional comic, but then again, independent graphic novels tend to be anything but repetitive.
Talking about independent comics, the book was released under SLG Publishing. Slave Labor Graphics Publishing was founded in 1986 by Dan Vado and tends to publish a very diverse group of books. This California based company has been known to discover and support a great number of newcomers on the field and for most new artists they are their first choice because of what people expect out of the company which is variety.
Personally I’ll be blunt and say I enjoy more a babbling, walking, rotting corpse whose only goal is to feed and force humanity to take a closer look at itself, than a story that although creates the same space for a personal check up, goes in a more civilized direction. Dead Eyes Open has a great message, and makes you think. Maybe not so much about zombies but as to how we act when decisions need to be made. It was a little hard to feel attached to the main character all the time. For moments you could feel his anguish but the way the story was directed, one just fell in and out of contact. I know this was sold originally as individual comics and then compiled as a whole book, but for the most part, I can’t say I could feel a clear climax at the end of every chapter. Maybe that’s why I didnt’feel immersed in the storyline. But for all is worth, a good idea overall. If you like zombies no matter what, you should give it a try.