Thursday, August 26, 2021

Lester Fenton and the Walking Dead: Unsettling Zombie Love! by Kyle Baker

That is an awfully long title for something that was an eleven-page anthology story. (Fast Forward #2, from DC in 1992) But it's the title we have, and it was republished as a book, clearly reformatted from larger pages but still flowing well, by creator Kyle Baker under his Quality Jollity imprint, in 2017.

So that's Lester Fenton and the Walking Dead: Unsettling Zombie Love! The bulk of the book is a flashback: we begin with Lester in his middle years on a date, but a random zombie attack leads him to tell his origin story.

Young Lester was a nerd, in what seems to be the Movie '50s, who is invited to the prom by popular and gorgeous cheerleader April, for mostly self-esteem-boosting reasons (hers, not his). Meanwhile, Lester's father, who just died, surprisingly turns back up at the house, speaking in a stilted manner but moving around and seeming to be at least a horrible mockery of alive. In fact, a number of people who are supposedly dead are walking about, and at least half-assedly trying to hide the supposed-to-be-dead thing.

It all comes to a head the night of the prom, obviously. Lester must battle the zombies, and defeat their immediate leader, his own father. (Their ultimate leader is of course Satan, who makes an appearance.)

This is all told in Baker's Why I Hate Saturn style: panels more or less placed in rows, but without a lot of traditional panel transitions, and long, humorous dialogue presented below the panels in hand-drawn lettering. The tone is arch and knowing, the dialogue is self-aware and hilarious, and the situation is silly in wonderfully make-fun-of-the-clich√© ways. This book packs a lot of funny into its pages.

It's still a short thing, obviously. It was an eleven-page story. But it was a very dense eleven-page story, on what I think were larger pages than these, so giving it a bit more space to breathe is good. And Baker is killer when he's really cooking with his funny material, which he definitely is here. So maybe not entirely a lost classic, but definitely a really funny genre book you've probably never heard of.

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