From USA Today:
DC Comics’ newest comic book stars the few, the proud and the undead.
Star-Spangled War Stories Featuring G.I. Zombie revives the long-running military-tinged anthology series with a soldier who’s pretty much dead but has been serving the government in secrecy for many years and many American wars.
Batwing writing team Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and artist Scott Hampton pair Jared Kabe with another military type, Carmen King, a woman who’s done two tours of duty but is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Her bosses think it’d be good for her to partner with Jared, and they focus their energies on anti-government militias in the USA as well as the beginning stages of a full-fledged zombie apocalypse.
G.I. Zombie is a “very good warrior, he’s a pretty decent guy, but he also has an appetite that’s not really healthy — and visually disgusting,” says Palmiotti, who describes the series as a mash-up of The Walking Dead, old Sgt. Rock comics and HBO’s True Detective.
“The surprising thing is you’ll get to really like these characters right away, and when the disturbing stuff happens, you might feel like, ‘Well, you know, that’s what he’s gotta do.’ And you’ll tag along for the ride.”
In the first issue (out Wednesday), Jared and Carmen are sent on an undercover mission by their handler/cleanup man Abel Anderson — codename Gravedigger — to infiltrate a militia that has gotten its hands on a chemical weapon called Black Ice, which can destroy towns and cities in a matter of hours.
The militia has genocide on its mind because its members are not really happy with where America is going, and the heroes’ secret branch of the government has to cover up this domestic terror that’s happening in the main DC Universe.
The members of this nefarious group are “regular people who are just getting swept up in the idea that they can make a big difference, and like a cult or anything like that, it comes down to one or two people pulling the strings to make things happen,” Palmiotti says.
“It’s basically up to G.I. Zombie and Carmen and Gravedigger to go in there and break it up or control the uncontrollable, and that’s what the series is about.”
Jared and Carmen are thrown into the new mission without getting to know one another, and though their relationship grows with each issue, she’s majorly freaked out working with a walking, functioning deceased guy.
“Every time they get a break, she’s asking him a thousand questions, which is pretty funny because it’s what you and I would do,” Palmiotti says. “We’d be sitting there like, ‘What do you eat? What do you do? Do you go to the bathroom? How long have you been alive?’ All that kind of stuff.
“They’re figuring out each other, but at the same time they have a mission in front of them, and the mission is everything to them.”
The “Five Years Later” issue in September shows an undead apocalypse veering out of control in the future — what Jared has in him is part of what starts happening in the world around him, according to Palmiotti.
Readers will get peeks of the pre-zombified Jared’s life as the story progresses, and at the half-year point, the writers want to show the events that led to his undead state of being.
“The thing about him is he has a sense of humor, he kind of knows where he is in the world and he understands it,” Palmiotti says. “He throws himself into stuations and he knows that no matter what, unless they cut his head off and bury it like eight miles away, he’s going to be able to pretty much take a good beating.”
Jared’s personality is far beyond the “Rrrrragh! Brains!” motif of many pop-culture zombies, yet there is that problem of the unhealthy appetite. Palmiotti reveals that he deals with it like somebody who’s hooked on drugs sneaks away and takes a hit: Jared doesn’t want to weird out his partner, but he also is faced with a ravenous hankerings for a living meal.
“He’s got this little monkey on his back saying, ‘What you do is horrible but you want to stay alive.’ He’s a perfect example of what somebody will do to survive, and the reason he is a warrior is because of his past,” Palmiotti explains. “As the series goes, it gets a little more twisted and of course Carmen figures out what’s going on and they have to work together with this problem.”
Plus, he adds, “she has her own demons with the stress disorder trying to have a normal life.”
Star-Spangled War Stories reboots a title that ran from the 1950s to the late ’70s, when Palmiotti was a kid going to the cinema to watch the dark and over-the-top films of the day.
He and Gray are known for their modern takes on oddball characters in comic lore such as Jonah Hex and the Unknown Soldier, and with G.I. Zombie, Palmiotti saw a way to tie into the global strife and madness one watches unfold during a full day of cable news.
“We have this belief that the people in charge know how to take care of everything,” he says. “As you get older, you realize, well, that’s not true. Your doctor’s guessing, your accountant’s guessing, the pilot is winging it so to speak, the cook is trying out something new.
“When we write this kind of material, we like to rely on the real-world stuff going on a lot because it is scary, and part of the charm of that is giving hope — that there’s heroes out there who actually knows what’s going on and they’re gonna save the day.”