Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Review time! with ‘Slow Death Zero’

“There’s a blue bird at my window, I can’t hear the songs he sings”

As the cover proclaims, Slow Death Zero is “The Comix Anthology of Ecological Horror,” and boy howdy, it’s an anthology with a lot of ecological horror, so the cover is certainly not false advertising! This comes to us from Last Gasp, and it was going to be for their 50th anniversary, but the pandemic put the kibosh on that. So it’s for their 51st anniversary! Slow Death was a comic the company out out in the 1970s and into the 1990s (#11, the final one, came out in 1992), so this is a fine way to celebrate their past. Jon Cooke and Ron Turner, the editors of this book, got a bunch of very cool creators, too, which is nice.

The last time I reviewed an anthology, I wrote about how hard it is to review anthologies, because they’re a mixed bag by definition. When it’s the same theme, they also become a bit repetitive, which is too bad. However, the creators in this book are good, and they often have nasty senses of humor, so while some of these are fairly serious, others are caustically funny, and it helps mix it up a bit. Environmental disaster stories depress me, because so many people want to deny that it’s happening and there’s not a lot we can do to stop it, especially if half the population thinks it’s fiction. See, I’m getting depressed just writing about it now. So let’s get to the stories!

I’m not going to go through all of them, but I’ll mention several. We ease into the book with a nice infomercial about Antarctica and how groovy it is and how we need to protect it. William Stout provides nice, solid artwork. There’s a two-page story by Charles Schneider and Rick Altergott that’s in the spirit of the old EC stories, with art that’s very much inspired by Wallace Wood. It’s one of these “ecological horror stories with a twist” that we’ll see throughout the book. There’s a Bryan Talbot story about a man carrying something through a dystopic future. Bruce Jones and Richard Corben team up once again to bring us a story about a couple living in the middle of a vast garbage pile, and there’s savage irony in it, because of course there is. Peter Kuper does a nifty story showing the destruction of the planet backward, so that it ends with the present. Mike Diana, the only comic book artist ever convicted for obscenity, contributes a story, and it’s funny that in the introduction, Cooke writes that some of the old stories had some unfortunate sexist and racist stereotypes, and Diana, in his story, has a certain racist stereotype that I’m very sure he didn’t even think was one. I won’t write more about it because it’s only in one panel and it’s honestly not egregious, but it’s interesting how ingrained some stereotypes are that I wonder if literally no one noticed this. Hunt Emerson and Kevin Jackson have a funny story about what happens when moose are mutated, and Rick Veitch has a depressing story about our addiction to technology. The only “real-life” story is by M. Yafa and Kellie Ström, which is about the Assad regime in Syria and its destruction of small ecosystems during their recent civil war. There’s a funny story by Garret Shanley and Pat Moriarty about rich people saving nature, and it feels all too real, sadly. There are other stories, but those are the highlights.

The book is a nice collection of old and new talent, and the stories are depressing, true, but they’re well done. They don’t all take the same tack, either, so while they’re all about environmental disaster in some way, the creators tell different kinds of stories. There’s some advice on how to stem the tide, which is nice, even though it might be too late already. See, now I’m getting depressed again. So yes, while this is well done, if the end of the world bums you out, you might not love this. Here are some samples from the stories!

William Stout
Charles Schneider and Rick Altergott
Bryan Talbot
Bruce Jones and Richard Corben
Peter Kuper
M. Yafa and Kellie Ström
John Lucas

Slow Death Zero is a good anthology, despite it bumming me out. I linked to it below, so if you’re interested, take a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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