I was recently contacted by Jeremy Whitley, director of marketing for Action Lab Comics, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing one of their upcoming comics. Now, it's always been my personal policy to be open to reviewing anything that could be of interest to my readers, so long as I can receive the review copies enough in advance that I can read and review it and get it posted during one of the periods I'm home. Well, Jeremy came through, and I'll be reviewing a book from their new imprint, "Action Lab: Danger Zone," which is an imprint for mature readers only. "Ehmm Theory" is described by Jeremy as "It's a horror/comedy. It's hilarious. It's violent. It features a talking cat and circus zombies." This is a creator-owned title, and it's written by Brockton McKinney with art by Larkin Ford, who are the owners of this property. Colors are by Jason Strutz. This book will be hitting comic shops in May of this year.
The cover features who I can only presume is the main character at this point, holding a baseball bat that's seen better days, with pools and splashes of blood at his feet, and a grey striped cat calmly cleaning itself. This certainly tells you that it's a mature title, not for kids, but also hints at the humor. The cover art is pretty clean, not a lot of extraneous detail as I've seen in a lot of modern books, but the lack of background of any kind is kind of jarring.
If you don't like books with a lot of gore, you'll want to stay away from this one, as the very first page of story features a zombie midget clown, having just broken out of its grave, getting its head kicked to pieces. The kicker is the character from the front cover, and his cat is sitting on his shoulder. The cat points out that he's kicked that zombie's head off, so you know that this is definitely not your usual horror book!
We're four pages into the story itself before we learn the character's name is Gabriel Ehmm. He introduces himself on a full-page shot, and tells us that his girlfriend killed him three days ago... and this is pretty graphically shown. Anyway, as Gabriel's origin goes on, we learn that Saint Peter needs his help, even though he's dead (and his new cat can now talk to him). Saint Peter, by the way, shows himself as an aging hipster type with long white hair in a ponytail, wearing a white suit with black shirt, and smoking a cigar. Saint Peter tells Gabriel that his biological father will be the key to accomplishing his mission, and puts him into a teleporter to begin that first mission, which is to find out why the dead are coming back to live in a circus town -- and they're all little people.
That brings us to where the issue began, although now we see the initial zombie kill was witnessed by a gypsy woman. Well, Gabriel and his cat start kicking "some tiny undead ass" (as the cat puts it), and it starts out all right, but then one starts to get the best of Gabriel. Fortunately, the gypsy woman dispatches it with an axe. It turns out the woman actually knew Gabriel's father, Aaron, and she offers to help Gabriel find him.
And that's it for the first issue. I know it doesn't sound like a lot, but it does set things up rather well. The art is pleasant-looking, and I like that it doesn't remind me of any one specific artist. It's not ultra-realistic, it's kind of cartoony, which helps get some of the humor across. Now, I don't honestly know if I will personally pick up this book when it comes out (mostly because I don't get to comic shops... heck, I've even been missing comic book shows since I've been truck driving, including this weekend's upcoming Emerald City Comic Con), but based on this first issue, I'd be interested in seeing more. It would be nice if there had been some hint here as to what's really happening here, but there's enough in this issue to get one's attention. The gore factor in this book isn't really all that high, really -- there were probably episodes of Monty Python that featured more bloodshed -- so that isn't a turnoff for me in this instance.
If you like your horror books sprinkled with a bit of humor and the definitely odd, you will probably enjoy this book. You can find out more about Action Lab's line of comic books at their website.