The book neatly avoids the problem that many zombie movies possess, which is that such stories rarely have intriguing villains
EX-HEROES is about superheroes versus zombies. I’m a big fan of both, so I was quite excited to pick up a copy. I admit I was initially leery of the combination, however. Marvel’s Zombies was a story that I felt never reached its full potential (in fact: I actually preferred the Army of Darkness/Marvel comics crossover for zombies + superheroes). Overall, if you need any more thoughts about what I think of this story, it boils down to this: it’s much better than Marvel’s Zombies and is well worth the cover price. It did, however, have some areas that I think could be improved.
The thing I enjoyed most about Ex-Heroes is the use of archetypes. One reason I never got into Heroes or many independent productions is that appeal of superheroes for me is actually the stories told about the most famous of them: Superman, Batman, Iron Man, the Question, and so on. Ex-Heroes doesn’t just insert copies of these characters but it does have enough analogues that the question of “How would superheroes react to zombies?” is answered in sufficient detail to be enjoyed on that level.
The heroes are not nearly so flawless as the ones in DC comics, though some of them come close. Also, their transformation into heroes has occurred only within the past few years. I’m not sure it helps the believability, so to speak, that a dozen superheroes of varying types of origins appear from different circumstances all in the past few years before the Zombiepocalypse. Still, it helps free the world from requiring an encyclopedia-sized backstory like Astro City or Wild Cards. I personally appreciated that Peter Clines kept the flaws from being remotely similar to the Watchmen, aside from being sexual the majority of them are genuinely selfless and noble people.
The premise is somewhat similar to Land of the Dead in that it is an isolated fortress-like community (a refurbished Paramount Studios) being protected against an ongoing siege of seemingly endless numbers of zombies. The heroes, so to speak, have to make routine dangerous raids into hostile territory (in this case the greater Los Angeles area) in order to gain supplies. It’s one of my favorite premises for a zombie movie and one that I enjoy a great deal. It shows the heroes are doing their job, even if they are faced with overwhelming odds. I never much cared for the “individual survivors” premise because I liked being able to see the bigger picture.
Really, the biggest part of the book’s appeal is the lead characters: Gorgon, Saint George, Stealth, and Cerberus. I’m especially fond of Stealth, who is an amusing case of being a heroic sociopath and a Defrosting Ice Queen at once. My second favorite character is Cerberus, who I hope will have an equally prominent role in later books. While the only romances in the book are highly dysfunctional ones, the story of Banzai and Gorgon being especially interesting, I hope that we’ll see more in Ex-Patriots.
The book neatly avoids the problem that many zombie movies possess, which is that such stories rarely have intriguing villains. Zombies, being the mindless force that they are, require a Herbert West or an Umbrella Corporation to provide drama. This book has the Los Angeles Seventeens, a street gang that possesses no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I’m not sure, honestly, if I quite bought that any street gang could be quite as deadly as this one is depicted as. Still, I was willing to believe the almost tribal brutality depicted in the story by the end so that’s all I needed to end my objections.
I do feel like the book has some issues. There’s some nastiness with one character who decides to do some unpleasantly sexual things with a celebrity zombie (that has consequences any idiot could predict). Also, the only Latin characters (in LA) are part of the street gang. The author himself admitted some of these problems and corrected the imbalance in future books but it’s still present in the original. Still, this is a somewhat hard-R take on superheroes with the heroes mostly good people but a few being scumbags that turn villain.
In summary, I was very interested in the world and pleased by the fact that the Zombiepocalypse is not resolved by the end of the book. There’s plenty of stories left to tell in the universe and ones that I am eager to see. I hope to see more of the characters and more hook-ups within new volumes. So, I suppose that is the best measure of a story review that can be shared.