By Scott SouthardIf we absolutely must continue foisting zombies into American fiction, can’t they be lovers instead of fighters? As comics reach ever closer into the strata of high art (whatever that means), the mine in which zombies and other similar genre fare dwell is beginning to run dry. But inventive creators continue to find a way to repurpose our stalwart undead, and here we are with New Romancer, valiantly resurrecting the poets and prophets of yore.

New Romancer plays with the notions of classic romantics (presently seen as the hopeless variety), and the realities of the era in which they were written compared to modern times. The idea of Lord Byron hopping into a convertible with a crew of attractive young women is novel, funny, and completely in character. (Especially after we see him nobly dying from disease in the 19th Century, refusing the leech-induced blood-letting that was in vogue at the time.) Problem is, the artifice of reanimated poets is under-utilized and heavily relied upon at the same time. It’s the titular concept, yet we don’t have swaths of romantics quoting themselves and attempting to woo modern women. We’re given two in Byron and the ever-pervy Casanova. Where’s Shelley and Keats? Blake or Wordsworth? And how are these folks going to function in a society with such different values than their original setting? The gimmick has promise, but without any substance to back it up, it deflates quickly.


The motivations of protagonist, Alexia, are muddled and incohesive as well. She fluctuates from being a smart, strong headed Silicon Valley vigilante to an MRA-molded, needy, bad boy lover, and what’s worse, there isn’t anything holding those two single-dimensional selves together. Her motives are unclear from the start, stemming from her unorthodox relationship with her jailbird father, the loss of her job in the tech industry, the experimental cyborg tests performed on her as a youth, and her longing for love that rivals the angsty scribbles you’d find inside any high school notebook. Nothing about her character fits. Instead of providing us a character we can empathize with, New Romancer gives us an empty mass of attributes.

I’m worried that I’m coming off as exclusively condemnatory, when in reality, New Romancer isn’t all that bad. There are clearly talented people behind it trying to flex their intellectual muscle while striving to convey interesting concepts. But these positive assets can’t find their way to a structured, concise product. It just feels like a pseudo-academic title among a sea of comic book pseudo-academia. New Romancer feels penciled in, something that ticks off all the boxes on the Vertigo checklist without any of the guts that anchor the headliners. Just being quirky and academic isn’t enough to prop up a franchise, or even enough to compete with some of the better titles already available on the rack. What we’re left with is a few fun ideas with nothing holding them together.

Vertigo Comics/$3.99

Written by Peter Milligan.

Art by Brett Parson.

5.5 out of 10