Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist(s): Ron Chan, Dustin Nguyen
Colorist: Matthew J. Rainwater
Release Date: 17th June, 2015
Confession time… I absolutely love Paul Tobin.
The chameleonesque writer has been responsible for some of my all-time favourite comics over the last few years, from the disturbingly brilliant Colder and Colder: The Bad Seed (alongside my ‘Top Artist of 2014’ Juan Ferreyra), to the brilliantly structured Fire and Stone: Prometheus (also with Ferreyra) and the utterly charmingly Bandette (created in partnership with his wife Colleen Coover). Hell, even his Witcher series basically served as a gateway drug to draw me into the compelling world of Projekt Red’s fantasy franchise. Cheers Paul, my wallet thanks you.
Anyway, with Tobin scoring bullseye after bullseye, it seemed odd that I’d never once delved into the rich back catalogue of his Plants versus Zombies titles. Well, consider that particular oversight officially remedied, as I’ve just been able to take a sneaky advance look at the first issue of Plants vs. Zombies: Bully For You, an upcoming series set to hit the shelves of your local comic shop in June. And, as I could probably have predicted – Tobin hits the mark yet again, providing a sharp, hilarious look at the zany world of the Pop Cap video games.
This latest story revolves around Zomboss, the leader of the titular zombies, channelling every kids TV villain imaginable into one sneering, monologuing, comically nefarious package. It looks like his past may be about to catch up with him however, as the residents of Neighborville that he’s been picking on since his college days have seemingly opted to band together to unite against his bullying ways. Tobin crafts a brilliantly accessible all-ages read here, with broader gags for the youngsters and more subtle comedic gems for the older readers. Plus, anyone who can slip a Ramones pun into a scene where babies are being given free candy clearly deserves some sort of medal. Seriously.
Tobin’s words are brought to life by the gloriously cartoony artwork of Ron Chan and the bright, lively colours of Matthew J. Rainwater. The characters match the design of the Pop Cap games perfectly, and the issue features all manner of neat visual gags and Easter Eggs to appeal to encourage repeat readings and to appeal to those familiar with the games themselves. Chan’s brilliantly exaggerated facial expressions really enhance some of Tobin’s gags too, particularly the panel where Zomboss has one of his trademark evil monologues interrupted by a parking warden. Comedy gold, I tell ya.
Oh, and if that’s not enough for you, this first issue also features a couple of back-up stories courtesy of the one and only Dustin Nguyen (Li’l Gotham, Descender). Okay, so ‘stories’ may be pushing it a little, as each two-page strip is essentially an extended montage scene featuring one of the PvZ characters, but you know what? When your artwork looks as absolutely stunning as Nguyen’s does, any excuse to see more of it is always going to be welcome.
Plants vs. Zombies: Bully For You is a gloriously fun series with a surprising amount of brainsssssss that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and has lots to offer for readers of all ages. While I was initially a little sceptical about just how entertaining a comic based on a tower defence mobile game could actually be, in the hands of this particular creative team, it just flat-out works. Now, to start delving into that PvZ back catalogue…