Review by Ian Keogh
The Zombies vs Robots franchise began here. When Chris Ryall conceived the idea in 2006 did he consider it an entertaining way to sell a few comics or did he consider it was an idea with legs likely to still have a future ten years on? Given the content of this first book, it’s more likely the latter, as the whimsy dial is turned high, but the seeds are already there. For a start what’s not to love about the concept? It instantly conjures up scenarios that almost write themselves, and the more thought that’s applied, the greater the complexity. Over the series as a whole Ryall applied a lot of thought.
So has artist Ashley Wood, moving away from his usual muddy painted approach and opting instead for scratchy pencils and inks with a colour overlay. It doesn’t always work as he’s prone to sacrificing clarity for a striking image, and in places it’s not always clear what’s going on. Compensating for this, Wood’s robot designs are great. These are no morphing Terminators, but clunky, awkward creations that look to have been cobbled together in junkyards.
What might otherwise be rather dry is sustained by Ryall supplying the robots with personality. It’s as if every eccentric robot ever used during the history of 2000AD has decamped to his world. The robots are categorised according to primary function, yet adaptable when required. The zombies? They’re zombies. Shuffling cannon fodder, yet deadly in packs. A novelty is that zombie blood can also affect the robots.
Ryall dismisses the past in a page – humanity wiped out by infection that transforms them into the undead – and moves swiftly into his main plot. A single human baby has survived in isolation, and as the robots are programmed to protect humanity they see their collective task as preserving her life until she’s old enough to be cloned and thereby re-start the human race. As this is a compact forty pages, the zombie invasion occurs relatively rapidly, and works to a surprising conclusion that leads directly into Zombies vs Robots vs Amazons.
The enjoyment to be derived from this depends very much on how much you enjoy Wood’s art, or if your purpose is investing in collectible editions. The story is fun, but slim, and certainly not worth the high prices being asked for the out of print version. For about a sixth of the price you can find the same material collected with a lot more in The Zombies vs Robots Omnibus.