Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Comics: No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers' dirty looks.

Bob Figerman's latest, a Dark Horse hardcover release called Recess Pieces, can be summarized quickly: it is Dawn of the Dead in a grade school. This short summary does capture the overall concept. A group of pre-pubescent kids must battle their way out of a zombie-filled school, dispatching former classmates and teachers along the way.

What the summary doesn't catch is the gore-stained humor Fingerman brings to the whole work. This work feels more like Shaun of the Dead and Dead Alive than "straight" horror fare like Night of the Living Dead. The kids drop one-liners, make bad puns, traffic in ethnic humor so broad it is difficult to find offense in it, and turn zombies into pulpy messes with gym equipment.

Though it is mostly played for laughs, Fingerman works from a simple and effective theme. In Recess, the narrative device used to kick-off the zombie holocaust is a toxic cloud released in a high school science lab, but the real reason people become zombies is that they grow up. Only teens and adults become zombies. Children must fight for their lives or be eaten by the forces of zombie/adulthood. It is this theme that ultimately elevates the humor. How can a satire of adulthood, the stage of life when seriousness is paramount, not be played for laughs?

Though some horror fans might find the gags distracting and some of Fingerman's fans might find it lightweight next to his famed Minimum Wage series, I think the book is an anarchic tribute the freedom that most purely exists in childhood. It is also a bloody good time.

For more info, check out the Fingerman interview at Comic Book Resources.

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