Remote Vol. 1: Dead Air TP
Publisher: Double Take
Release Date: September 28, 2016
Price: $9.99
Creator(s): Colin Mitchell and Various (writers); Young Heller and Various (artists)
Format: 144 pgs., Full-Color, Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9972-8994-7
Age Rating: Mature
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

This book is part of an incredibly ambitious publishing effort, in which ten different comics are taking place at the same time, within a few miles of a single small town in April of 1966.  The basic premise is deliberately similar to Night of the Living Dead, in that there is sort of a zombie outbreak in western Pennsylvania, but as the story unfolds, it becomes more complex.  Think of it as Night of the Living Dead meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with 1960s political and social commentary thrown in.

The advantage of this approach is a very dense, rich story.  The disadvantage is that it is difficult to determine the best order in which to read the books.  Since events cross-reference between books, and there are odd visual running gags that carry over, this makes things complicated.  Also, since the ten books are done by different writers, artists and even editors, there are issues of consistency and quality control.  The “fact” pages become suspect as soon as the reader notices that they got the date of the first moon landing wrong.  Some other information is wrong as well [like the founding of the Secret Service], and it is unclear whether this was an attempt at an alternate history or just shoddy research.

Remote is about the radio broadcasts taking place during the zombie apocalypse.  The last three radio stations on the air are all owned by the same man, and he calls in to the surviving broadcaster at each station to keep them on the air and keep the advertising dollars rolling in.  Of the ten series in this project, this is probably the most creative and the most surreal, as two of the DJs makes creative use of zombies in ways that are funny, but really dangerous and unlikely, all while tormenting the FCC monitor, who seems to be unaware of the zombie apocalypse.

Even stranger, the station owner’s calls get less and less possible, as the comic’s reality disintegrates in front of the reader’s eyes.  [No, you can’t get from Acapulco to Macchu Pichu in 20 minutes.]  The three broadcasters get more exhausted and less sane, and the story becomes less about the zombie apocalypse than about the edges of reality itself.  It’s like reading the Neil Gaiman comic book adaptation of a Salvador Dali surrealist movie filmed during a zombie apocalypse.  This book will mainly appeal to folks who like the weirder Vertigo titles, but it is by far the most creative of the Double Take titles.

For readers who make it through the first volumes of all ten series, a zillion characters and plot threads have been introduced, but many questions remain even about the real story.  Is it a biological zombie outbreak, an alien invasion, or both, or ???

It is unclear why, but the five comics making up this volume used four writers and a host of artists, none of whom do more than a pretty good job.  It is necessary to read other volumes in the line in order to understand the plot, but ten parallel series makes this an expensive project for the readers.  The best artists seem to have done covers, but many of those covers are non-sequitur pinups, having even less to do with the stories than is usual for comics.

So, while this is an admirable project, it may have limited appeal due to the actual limits of the wallets of potential readers.  Reading one title in isolation may not provide a satisfying story out of this larger tapestry.  Still, there are some really good moments of horror movie-style action, and some good period-piece social history woven through.  For readers interested in those, the overall series is worth a look.

For adults, due to sex, violence, drug use and other material scattered throughout the volumes.

--Nick Smith: Librarian Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.