The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

Review: ‘Snikt!’

(As I finished unpacking stuff from our recent move here at ZRC headquarters I rediscovered a huge pile of Zombie and Zombie-related media, good and bad, that never got reviewed the first time around. So over the next few weeks, leading up to the auction, reviewing some of this stuff seems like a good way to pass the time. We’re still hard at work on more contemporary projects and prep work for the auction, of course, Loyal Zombie Fans.)

This review will contain spoilers so I’m putting it behind the cut. Short answer: Not ZRC approved, but not your typical Zombie-bashing either.

I’ll put this right up front: Snikt! isn’t your typical zombie comic.

To begin with, yes, this is another entry in the American comics industry’s attempts to flirt with and/or co-opt the surge of interest in manga. Oddly enough, however, they chose to hand the reins over to a manga artist, Tsutomo Nihei, whose greatest fame outside Japan comes from Europe, and who specializes in grim post-apocalypse stories and gritty artwork with an almost Goth aesthetic sensability. Naruto this isn’t, for good or bad.

Nihei’s art certainly is striking. The closest thing I’ve come to it in the American comics world is Ben Templesmith or Jhonen Vasquez, only Nihei lacks the muddy incoherence of the former and the indie-comics feel of the latter. His storytelling, well. If post-apocalypse is your bread and butter, and you have a chance to do a Wolverine comic, then a post-apocalypse Wolverine comic is a safe bet, I should think.

An apocalypse with zombie-like creatures.

On to the actual story: Wolverine is wandering Central Park in New York for some reason when a strange girl calls him by name and asks for his help. As a superhero I suppose you get that a lot. He takes her hand and she transports him to a strange wasteland where he is promptly attacked by a fiercesome, undead-looking monster. Being Wolverine, he cuts it to ribbons, but oddly enough it doesn’t die, until a tall stranger in a robotic suit of armor (not Iron Man) shoots it in the big, glowing red core.

You know, like in Gradius. Or Life Force. Or Contra. Has Wolverine never played a single videogame? He loves Japan, lived there for a while. Is it such a stretch to suggest he might have at least *tried* a videogame in the 80s?

Anyway, as it turns out, that undead thing was one of the Bad Guys, who are called The Mandate, and sort of one-part Borg, one-part Grey Goo Scenario, and one-part Zombies. Well-meaning but idiotic future scientists created an organism based on flesh-eating bacteria they thought they had reprogrammed to eat pollution instead. It couldn’t survive outside the lab, so they created an organic container/heart to hold it until it could be fed pollution.

So far, this isn’t such a strange idea. There are specialized strains of bacteria used to help clean oil spills, for example, and you do have to supply fresh ones from the lab periodically because they apparently become less effective over time when exposed to the environment. Why flesh-eating bacteria becomes obvious when the organisms inevitably run amok. Turns out, A: they can still eat flesh and B: somehow, they’re sentient.

By accident.

Yeah. Oddly enough it works fairly well on the page. Sentient diseases aren’t new to the Marvel Universe, so maybe there’s that going for it. The proof of concept’s already been done, the floodgates are open.

Ok, so this sentient, flesh-and-pollution eating organism is naturally malevolent. It starts building bodies (another unintended trait) out of the stuff it eats and sends them out to ravage the land. Humanity fights back, but is quickly overwhelmed, except for small pockets of humanity hiding in giant fallout shelters made of the one material that The Mandate can’t eat, protect themselves against or destroy: adamantium.

You know, the stuff in Wolverine’s bones.

Since adamantium is the one material these Mandate-zombies can’t deal with, it’s also ideal to piece their glowy red cores and kill them. Even better, only the first Mandate is capable of reproducing, so if you find it, and pierce ITS glowy red core, you’re halfway to genociding their entire, admittedly aggressive, species.

And of course, if there’s one thing Wolverine excels at, it’s stabbing things with those claws, so picking him out of the past makes a certain amount of sense.

Only.. it doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you have someone capable of moving people back and forth in time, why not try preventing The Mandate entirely? If you can’t do that (paradoxes), why not just evacuate into the past? Go far enough back and your ragtag band of survivors can have something resembling a life. For that matter, why not assemble an army? Or just get more adamantium for your weapons if you can?

Nobody explains exactly why their one and only attempt is to get Wolverine. It’s a Wolverine comic; I guess everyone just assumes he’s required.

From a ZRC perspective, The Mandate are an interesting take on ‘Zombies’. They eat flesh, shamble around aggressively, can’t or don’t speak, and are made from the recently dead. They also are capable of spreading like diseases into still-living hosts.

On the other hand, they’re not exclusively made from people per se; they’re organic matter mixed with machines, sort of nano-tech cyborgs. The comic never explicitly says they have to use humans at all, for food or bodies. They seem to like doing it though. The Mandate’s psychology is never expressly dealt with; we never hear anything from their perspective. They seem to be rigidly organized, like an anthill or a hive mind, but this is never stated outright.

The concept of a Zombie hive mind is interesting, and has me wondering about the Borg from Star Trek. Are they a distant cousin to the Zom-concept? Their entire society is designed around spreading into and co-opting the living intelligent species; they radically transform and assimilate their captives, violently and without consent, into new Borg entities. Free will is lost, for the most part. Are the Borg ‘alive’ in the typical sense, being half machine? What does it mean to be ‘alive’ or ‘undead’ when we’re talking about flesh mixed with mechanical life-support systems?

So The Mandate are quasi-Zombile according to the American tradition. Nihei helps out with the art by drawing them from the neck-up very Romero-like. Grey pallid skin, white clouded eyes, with a definite decomposed look overall.

After giving it a bit of thought, the ZRC has decided to advocate on behalf of techno-organic quasi-Zombies like The Mandate as well as our more traditional clients. We feel that, as the definition of Zombie spreads and blurs over time, we have to be flexible and move with it. Not truly Undead, like Danny Boyle’s victims? Not a problem. We’re here for you. Magical or mystically inclined, ala the Italian Zombie tradition? We’ll work on your behalf. Technologically derived post-apocalypse survivors?

We’re your advocates too. We want to hear your side of the story. Naturally, this means we have to oppose one-sided works that openly push the Zombie Genocide route, like Mr. Nihei’s Skikt!. Why must violence always be the first and only response for anti-Zombie types in the media? Is a little diplomacy so much to ask for?

Once again we pile scorn and shame on Marvel for perpetuating old Zombie stereotypes while pushing them into edgy new territory artistically. For shame, Marvel.

For shame.


About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.

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