As modern human beings, especially those of us who live “first world” lifestyles, we can be selfish and self-absorbed. We get comfortable in our daily lives and routines that include restful sleep, plenty of food, and a glut of entertainment options. We are secure enough in our day-to-day existence that we can afford to get angry about traffic and throw social media tantrums about how severely the latest Hollywood blockbuster disappoints us. So what happens when the too-comfortable among us are suddenly faced with a genuine existential crisis, a genuinely great emergency of catastrophic proportions? That’s the question that many zombie apocalypse tales have attempted to answer over the years. Most of the time, in the end, creators of such stories choose to have the heroes discover their selflessness and fight for their survival while protecting the lives of others.
For example, let’s say you’re a self-absorbed, flannel-wearing, Doc Marten-sporting, Pearl Jam-loving, arcade tournament-playing college kid from 1996 who has little to do other than smoke weed, drink beer and wait with your three pals for the arcade tournament to start. Suddenly, you find yourself face-to-face with a screaming child who is trapped in a car and about to be consumed by zombies. What’s your first instinct? If you said you’d dump your self-absorption and risk your skin to rescue the little girl in the car and help her survive the onslaught, you might have read Matthew Myers’ Down By Kontact, a zombie horror graphic novel written by Myers with art by Dixie Filloy, owner of Dr Eff Designs and daughter of animator Arthur Filloy.
Myers’ story kicks off as any good zombie horror comic should: with a vicious attack by the undead. After that, we meet the four alternative rock-era protagonists, who are going about their day in preparation for an arcade game tournament that they will ultimately never get to attend. If there is a slow section in this 38-page tale, it is this area. Myers spends a little too much time establishing the characters and time period on the front-end of the story instead of revealing them through their actions and settings as the crisis unfolds around them.
Once the action gets moving, it is intense and well done. It is also very obviously an homage to the late George A. Romero’s film work in the genre. Filloy’s artwork has a uniquely comic book-style without becoming generic. It falls somewhere between a late 1970s Saturday morning cartoon and the sharper edges of a modern Tony Moore. Stylistically, the lettering is a bit troublesome in places. It is large and legible, but often does not fit well within the speech balloons it is placed. Sometimes the balloons are too large. Sometimes they’re not large enough, causing the lettering nearly to run into their margins. This creates a distraction in what should be an immersive tale.
Myers originally wrote Down By Kontact as a film script heavily inspired by Romero. He changed his mind and decided to go down the graphic novel path after he saw Filloy’s work. Myers states that any ambiguity the reader finds in the tale should be considered intentional. “As the story is told in a little girl’s flashback of her life, it leaves a lot for the reader to interpret in their mind, where horror is the scariest!”
Overall, Down By Kontact is an excellent collaboration between writer and artist and a fitting tribute to the Romero canon of classic undead films. More information about Down By Kontact is available on its website. Pre-ordering is available at the same location.