Wednesday, October 15, 2014

16 Days 'Til Halloween: Sacrifices in vain

Last year, around the approach to Halloween, I read a collection of comics that were part of a crossover called Infestation, and I really only mentioned it here on the blog because it was vaguely seasonally appropriate, and because it gave me a chance to work in some cheap pops for beloved 80's properties like GI Joe and Transformers and also make fun of myself for being the kind of geek who hears about an interesting story concept that's actually the sequel to something else, and insists on going back to the beginning and doing the homework before checking out said attention-grabber. I held off on passing any kind of actual judgment on the Infestation storyline itself because the publisher (IDW) had split the whole crossover up into two volumes, and I had only read the first one, and couldn't fairly evaluate the whole.

A year later, and I finally can. It turns out to be a bit of a mixed bag. The fundamental idea is solid enough, particularly if you look at things from a meta perspective (as is my wont). Zombies are such a flexible archetype, which can really fit into just about any setting, so they suggest themselves as a unifying element for telling stories in such disparate environments as the far reaches of Federation space and the New York City where the Ecto-1 is registered. IDW publishes comics based on all of these pre-existing standalone intellectual properties which represent discrete continuities, so they invented a cosmic force of evil called the Undermind, which is the source of all reanimation of the dead and is bigger than any one universe:

And events springboarded from there to the Undermind trying to invade and take over various realities, including those we would recognize as the settings of Star Trek and Ghostbusters and so on. As a result, the story never has to bear the weight of Captain Kirk meeting Peter Venkman, or any other tonal whiplash-inducing mash-up. Spock, Bones and Kirk fight zombies tailored to their milieu, and Ray, Egon, Peter and Winston do the same in theirs, and only the shared backstory weaves them together into the same tapestry.

Which is all well and good for some monster-ized retro pop, not to mention the spectacle of a zombified Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, but the freedom of the narrative's episodic nature becomes a drawback when the story requires an ending. Each group of heroes battles zombie hordes and fends off the invasion, but what about the Undermind? Who's going to deal with the Big Bad? The answer IDW provides is ... their own in-house intellectual property, a team of mystics and magical creatures working together as a government supernatural task force with the unlikely title of C.V.O. (Covert Vampiric Operations) It was in fact the C.V.O. that kicked off the whole Infestation by delving too deep and unleashing the Undermind, allowing their resident nice female vampire Britt to become the Undermind's thrall and point woman for invasion. (It was also the C.V.O.'s artillica, blending of magic and technology, which allowed the Undermind to develop the ability to infect robots and create zombie automatons, so that the Transformers could be part of the story, in case you were curious.) In the end, everything climaxes in a big showdown between the C.V.O. and the Undermind, with resident nice male vampire Cross heroically choosing to deliberately become infected by a zombie bite so he can match Britt's new power levels and ...

... and a whole buch of stuff that sounded like they were making it up as they went along. Cross, in addition to being a vampire, is also a magic-user, and so he uses magic to cast as spell that negates all magic in the universe, which renders the artillica useless and creates a feedback wave banishing the Undermind, or something like that, I don't know. Because I had never read a C.V.O. comic before in my life, so I'm a little fuzzy on the details of who was who and what they were capable of and whether or not it was supposed to be emotional and dramatic and noble that one vampire(-wizard?) would willingly undergo zombification to rescue another vampire and incidentally save the world and/or multiple universes. It was a classic bait-and-switch, in other words; I was lured into the story by the promise of revenant Decepticons and shambling corpses versus Ghostbusters and then asked to invest myself in a climax to the whole saga involving characters I had no attachment to whatsoever.

But, as with any good horror franchise (and as I alluded to above) there is a sequel out there, and I will no doubt wind up checking it out, because once I am into something I am in to the bitter end. Something to look forward to for Countdown 2015!

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