Cover to 'The Gravediggers Union' #1. Art by Wes Craig/Image Comics

Cover to ‘The Gravediggers Union’ #1. Art by Wes Craig and Jared K. Fletcher/Image Comics

By Mickey Rivera. Gravediggers get no love. It’s low wage work and on top of that people instinctively hate them for throwing dirt on the caskets of their dearly departed. A few years ago Wes Craig imagined better for them in a ten-page black and white story about average, run of the mill gravediggers who, unbeknownst to an unappreciative society, were in fact shovel-wielding warriors fending off an ever-invading horde of undead.

The Gravedigger’s Union #1 is a return to that concept, but not a retread. With the exception of the five pages Craig illustrates himself, this book plunges readers face-first into a world where ghost storms and vampire attacks are regular major news events. All across the globe the undead are returning and wreaking havoc on shopping malls and major cities.

Our working class heroes are introduced amidst a battle against weight-lifting zombie bros and golems made of festering garbage. Gravedigger troupe leader Cole, who might be pushing sixty but is apparently not too old to stick tridents in the faces of his enemies, is understandably concerned about how fucked up and spooky the world has become. He starts needling his fellow diggers to help him get to the source of it.

Toby Cypress’ art for this comic mixes classic cartooning with experimental halftone shadows and ghostly streaks of orange. Though his placement of those orange streaks is at times bizarre and distracting, the overall effect is a sweet blend of horror grit and satirical gloominess.

Interior page from 'The Gravediggers Union' #1. Art by Toby Cypress, Niko Guarda, and Jared K. Fletcher/Image Comics

Interior page from ‘The Gravediggers Union’ #1. Art by Toby Cypress, Niko Guardia, and Jared K. Fletcher/Image Comics

There are some choice moments in the book that show off the creators’ penchant for gallows humor. My favorite is the proto-human primate hula-dancing to the clapping rapture of his horrific eldritch overlord. Then there’s the silent, mindless tap-tap-tapping of diner customers checking their phones after news that 20,000 people just got swept to hell by a ghost storm. Craig and Cypress have the humor and style to make this book a dark satirical creepshow.

But, considering this is issue #1, it’s a lot to take. We should be getting to know these guys rather than plunging grave-deep into battles and major intrigues with them. Don’t get me wrong: zombies, vampires, and junk golems are evil and must be destroyed. But it’s no fun to blindly cheer on the zombie smashers just because they smash zombies. The original comic gave readers an understated peek into a secret world. This comic overstates and keeps few secrets: the undead are happening now and Wesley Craig doesn’t have time to dick around with showing us the ropes.

I’d be happy to find out what kind of immense doom awaits this world. But I’m hoping we’ll actually get to meet its mysterious protectors, who formerly tended so gently to our final resting places, and fought evil when the world wasn’t paying attention. If you were a fan of the original story and are looking to pick this comic up for more of the same… wait and see where it goes. The Gravediggers Union #1 is high intensity.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Wes Craig.

Art by Wes Craig (cover + pages 1-5).

Art by Toby Cypress (pages 6-30).

Colors by Niko Guardia.

Letters/design by Jared K. Fletcher.

7 out of 10