‘Stitched – Volume 1’ collects together the first seven issues in a new zombie comic series written and drawn by Mike Wolfer (artist on ‘Night Of The Living Dead’, ‘Widow’ and ‘Strange Kiss’), based on an original story by Garth Ennis (scriptwriter for ‘Hellblazer’, ‘Preacher’ and ‘Judge Dredd’). I reviewed ‘Crossed Volume 4 – Badlands’, another zombie-related graphic novel originated by Garth Ennis, for SFCrowsnest last month and didn’t enjoy it. Will this be any better?
We’re in the Taliban-controlled mountains of Eastern Afghanistan in the present day. A Blackhawk helicopter crashes due to a mechanical problem. Three of the American crew survive. The pilot has a leg injury, so his female co-pilot and her inexperienced friend help him hobble towards the border. When they come across the brutally dismembered bodies of some Taliban soldiers, they wonder who else is in the area.
They find out soon enough, when they in turn are attacked by a group of shambling grey zombies whose eyes, nostrils and other bodily orifices have been stitched shut. The zombies seem immune to bullets and are about to overwhelm them when rescue comes in the form of the three-man SAS team they were supposed to be extracting when they crashed. The SAS guys have come across the zombies before and know that they are controlled by black-clad men who animate them by rattling pebble-filled tin cans. When they find and shoot those men and silence the cans, the zombies freeze where they stand.
As our six heroes continue to make their way to the border, they are pursued by more of the zombies, nicknamed the ‘Stitched’ by the SAS team. When they set an ambush for the creatures, their reward is a human prisoner who tells them that their supernatural enemies are being used as the muscle in a lucrative people trafficking operation. So now they have a decision to make, should they continue to head for the border in order to get medical help for the injured pilot or should they try to find and eliminate the people traffickers who have unleashed the Stitched?
This is a powerful and original story told with verve and panache. Our six protagonists are interesting individuals with their own back stories and quirks. The American co-pilot, Lieutenant Cassandra Cooper, comes across particularly well as a skilled and capable soldier, matched by Captain Tony Barclay, the head of the SAS team. The depth of characterisation makes the story feel credible despite the presence of zombies. That makes the horror, when it occurs, all the more disturbing.
The artwork is of high quality and although there is extensive gore in places, it is generally kept to the level needed to tell the story, rather than being ramped up simply to shock the reader. Again, this ‘less is more’ approach worked really well for me.
What I liked most of all was that the story had been properly thought through, with solid rational explanations behind just about everything that happened. ‘Stitched’ may be a supernatural zombie horror story but the strong writing made me believe it could really happen.
This first volume in the story of ‘Stitched’ ends with a potential nod to a sequel. I really hope that happens. ‘Stitched – Volume 1’ is an excellent example of an intelligent graphic novel which combines strong writing with excellent artwork. I thoroughly enjoyed it.