Clay Blakehills

After the World, Vol 1

Black House Comics (2009)

ISBN 9-780980-600650

Reviewed by Ross Murray, March 2010

Killable Hours is the first volume in Black House Comics’ After the World series of stories set in a zombified Australia.

Promoting itself as “All New Australian Pulp”, the After the World series draws on the American pulp magazines (1890s-1950s) and their predecessors the Penny Dreadfuls and Penny Bloods of the 1850s and 1860s which gave spawn to a many mythic characters such as Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Spring Heel’d Jack. These magazines contained stories peppered with violence, murder, crime, and supernatural visions meant to shock and disgust. They were cheap and expendable, much like the hordes of lawyers in Killable Hours.

As a law intern completing the final year of his degree, Terry has decided that law just isn’t his bag, baby. Luckily for him he won’t have to complete it because, as is happening a lot lately, the zombie apocalypse occurs without any explanation as to how it happened and why. Apocalypses just happen these days and, well, there you go… On the other hand, Terry is somewhat unlucky as a bunch of lawyers in the firm soon go from “bloodsuckers” to flesheaters after more than just his pound of flesh. Terry manages to survive the first onslaught and with fellow survivors Janelle and Neville, eventually have to fight their way out of the firm’s inner city high-rise building.

Blakehills keeps the core group of characters to a manageable three and doesn’t waste any time in plunging headlong into a cavalcade of ways to expire undead flesheating lawyers. It’s literally wall-to-wall gore in some scenes and action, action, action all the way.

The problem is it’s all a little familiar. There’s not a lot of originality in the story itself which basically amounts to Dawn of the Dead in a Melbourne office tower. And any thought of character development is quickly passed over in favour of extended gruesome action sequences. While the story is written solidly enough (though Blakehills sometimes suffers from ‘I-itis’ with sentence structure), and is heading in the right direction to elicit its pulp roots, I’m not sure whether it’s strong enough to have first-time readers coming back for further instalments. This of course remains to be seen and I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.

On a marketing note, when I put my hand up to review Killable Hours I actually thought it was a comic. It’s produced by Black House Comics, and has comic looking artwork for the cover. Not that it’s a big problem but labelling future editions as a pulp novella or novel may clarify things for the buyer who may not be familiar with the term “pulp” itself.

Hats off to Black House for getting this off the ground. They still sell westerns and war stories in this “digest” size format at newsagents so why not a series of connected zombie apocalypse stories? With most novels only coming in “house brick” size, something that can fit in a jacket pocket or trouser back pocket comes as a welcome relief. Killable Hours may well fill a hole when caught without something to read, when money is short (priced at five dollars), and pockets are small.

The second volume of the After the World series Gravesend is also available. For further information go to www.blackhousecomics.com<

Advertisements