First off, I hate zombies. Can't stand them, don't like the sub-genre of zombie horror, am appalled by all the comics out there doing zombie versions of super-heroes, and just don't get the whole psychosexual thrill of "humans" wanting to consume other humans.
But, for the sake of lauding Graphic Universe's fifth book in its "Twisted Journeys" series, I'll tolerate the fact that Nightmare on Zombie Island is chocked full of the undead.
The book is a "choose your own adventure" text that calls itself a graphic novel but is actually one of those hybrid texts like The Invention of Hugo Cabret or the recently-cancelled Abadazad series. It combines illustrations and pages of traditional print text with full-on sequential art pages and panels.
I should tell you that if it wasn't for Choose Your Own Adventure books and Encyclopedia Brown -- and especially an Encyclopedia Brown Choose Your Own Adventure book -- I probably would have never fallen in love with print-based books. Well, I have to add the 1959 World Book Encyclopedias to that list of early influences too.
So, what I've detailed to you above is a love of facts-based and logic-based texts (making me typical of boys and their reading interests), but you already know me as a lover of comics as well.
The thing about comics and choose your own adventure-style books is that they also represent some of the most abhorred forms of text by many traditionalist teachers. But, I thoroughly relished in having control of the story. I would speculate and predict what would happen based on my choices, and I took them seriously. I had one Choose Your Own Adventure book featuring
the Transformers, and I remember that the fates were often pretty damn harsh, like slowly melting or rusting or being ripped limb-for-limb (I think that folks thought that since the main characters were robots, young readers wouldn't be as stunned by the ravages -- this can also be seen in some of the brutal covers of the 1980s Marvel Transformers comic books. Consider the sample image and remember that this series was really for kids. If that had been people getting shot, the 1950s would have started all over again!). I built up my inference skills and my logic by trying to get into the writers' heads and using what I had learned about the twists from previous texts to help me craft my decisions. And, honestly, if I still screwed up and killed Optimus Prime, I felt deep guilt.
Something else about those texts: they had moral and ethics education undercurrents in them. Many times, your fate was tied not only to the decisions you made, but the type of decisions you made. For example, if one was a good boy or girl and kept a strong sense of moral code, one would usually end up OK, usually. But, if was selfish or committed one of the deadly sins, one often suffered for it.
That's the trend in Nightmare on Zombie Island as well, as you and some friends find yourself on an island with a pirate ship's hidden treasure deep in its bowels. The treasure remains undisturbed, and you escape the zombies or have little trouble. If, however, you take the booty without permission (insert terrible sardonic thought of bridging this text to Speak here), you're not going to have many happy endings.
This book is fun. It's not amazing, or jaw-droppingly written, but it's a nice romp through a hybrid text that puts the reader in c
harge of the reading experience. And the zombies are pirate zombies, which seem to be the best kind nowadays.
(Right: Jack Sparrow loves zombies, and pirates, but he really loves zombie pirates. And Pilate's, and 21 Jump Street because it launched his career -- well, not as a pirate, but as an actor. Someone with great Depp of character. That's a joke, not as tasteless as the Speak reference, which I still feel guilty about even writing, but the sad thing is that it came to me so quickly -- I didn't have to think about it as a "joke" -- that I'm a little disturbed by it and had to write it out as a form of confessional. Speaking of booty, though, based on the thoughts of many of my students, Jack Sparrow loves booty and booty loves Jack Sparrow, and the good captain will never suffer from a lack of booty no matter how much booty he gives away.)