Review – Dead of Winter #1 (Oni Press)

Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Kyle Starks
Artist: Gabo
Release Date: 2nd August 2017

If our very own Sam’s Geeking Out column proves nothing else, it’s that the trend of comics being adapted into board games has never been hotter.  Whether it’s Knight Models and their Batman Miniature Game or Mantic Games’ The Walking Dead: All Out War, it’s safe to say that the worlds of gaming and comics are enjoying quite a fruitful relationship in recent years.  And that door swings both ways too, as we’re about to find out this week with Dead of Winter, a brand new comic series from Oni Press based on the Plaid Hat Games board game.

On the surface, Dead of Winter appears to be a fairly typical zombie story, leaning into the tropes and conventions that go hand in hand with the popular board game.  In a post-apocalyptic world, a rag-tag group of survivors band together, stockpiling supplies and going on intermittent scavenger runs, always trying to stay one step ahead of the ever-present zombie horde.  So far so familiar, right?

Thankfully, there are two – possibly even three – things which easily prevent Dead of Winter from becoming yet another “ugh, zombies again?” comic series.

Firstly, Kyle Starks is writing it.  Starks, who you’ll likely know from Sexcastle, Rock Candy Mountain or me screaming at you in the street about just how great he is, has a real knack for writing hilarious, instantly quotable dialogue – a skill he showcases to perfection here, channeling all his awesomeness through Ruckus Burley, a white trash hero with a fast mouth and an even faster trigger finger.

Secondly, there’s a cape-wearing superhero dog.  And even without prior knowledge of the Dead of Winter board game where Sparky rules supreme, you have to admit this is a pretty damn cool idea.  Sparky – a former television sensation in the pre-apocalypse world – flat-out hates zombies, and takes great pleasure in dispatching them with apparent ease wherever possible.   He’s a very good boy, in every sense of the word.

And finally, if you do already happen to be familiar with the book’s board game inspiration, then you’ll be treated to all manner of Easter eggs, inside references and an impressive level of faithfulness to the source material.  That said, I should clarify that it’s not even remotely required to have any prior knowledge of the franchise, but if you do, then you’ll definitely get an extra kick out of several moments in this first issue.

The series is illustrated by Gabo, who does a solid job of creating a suitably post-apocalyptic world complete with a stripped-down, simplified interpretation of game artist Fernanda Suarez’s established Dead of Winter aesthetic.  The violence is suitably over-the-top, making sure things aren’t ever taken too seriously, and while there’s the occasional clunky panel or awkward facial expression along the way, everything flows fairly smoothly throughout and the action has a pleasingly solid feel to it.

Ultimately, Dead of Winter is an enjoyable and inoffensive read, but with the exception of the few points I mentioned above, there isn’t really a huge amount of new ideas being brought to the fore here – although I’ll freely admit that the events of the final few pages may go a long way towards remedying that.  Perhaps not quite an essential read then, but if you’re a fan of zombies, awesome dogs or Plaid Hat board games, this is definitely well worth a look.

Rating: 3.5/5.

If you want to find out more about DEAD OF WINTER, make sure to check out our interview with Kyle and Gabo by CLICKING HERE.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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