I want to start by saying that I have never read The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman’s black-and-white zombie comic that became such a phenomenon that it led AMC to produce the long-running television series (that I am more familiar with). Given my own fandom towards anything zombified, I should get around to reading all 193 issues –and Image’s hardcover release of a 2016 one-shot comic set in The Walking Dead universe that is written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Marcos Martin is as good place to start from as any.
Conceived by the two creators in exchange for letting Image publish their creator-owned title The Private Eye from Panel Syndicate in hardcover, The Alien takes place not in America, but in Barcelona where the zombie outbreak has just happened. Awoken by the sound of screaming, American Jeff is left stranded and alone in a world he no longer recognizes. Saved by a literal knight in shining armor named Claudia, the two plan their escape from the country by stealing a boat that will take them to America.
The first thing to praise is the subtitle itself, as it nods to the humorous story of Kirkman having to lie about extra-terrestrials being in The Walking Dead in order to get it published. What the subtitle also conveys is that our main character is in a foreign country, which becomes more unknown to him and everyone else with the plague of zombies.
Maintaining the monochrome look that has defined the main series (with Cliff Rathburn providing the gray tones), Spanish artist Marcos Martin is able to apply his own sensibilities in this well-established world. Presented in a landscape format, you get the quirky character designs (including the well-drawn and grisly zombies), as well as the richly-detailed streets of Barcelona, with a strong emphasis on shadows, evoking the style of film noir.
While it could be daunting to step into someone else’s creator-owned work, Brian K. Vaughan does it with ease. Having previously written post-apocalyptic fiction with Y: The Last Man, Vaughan knows when to strike the emotional note and understands the rules of The Walking Dead, where anyone can bite the dust, no matter how young or innocent you are. As much as I enjoyed the interaction between Jeff and Claudia – specifically the latter as she suddenly appears wearing medieval Spanish armor and wielding a halberd – the compression of the short story format doesn’t allow for as much character interaction as I would have liked.
Ending on a sad note that ties in nicely with the main series, Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin present a one-shot comic that works both for Walking Dead fans and newcomers who just want a piece of zombie horror.