Okay first of all I have to admit this issue was my very first introduction to Janey Belle, otherwise known as Zombie Tramp. So if you are among the uninitiated, like I was before reading this special ‘remastered’ origin special, I will enlighten you with some very dark backstory. Our anti-heroine is former high-priced call girl Janey Bell; a staple at red carpet events of types before becoming an undead’s late night snack, she was more likely to be nibbled on by Hollywood movie stars and producers alike. The pivotal moment in this twisted take on hookers and horror belongs to Drag Queen Madame George. This madame wouldn’t even make it out of the gate on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, more akin to a drag toad than a drag queen, George calls Janey after being arrested with a request that is paramount in Janey’s transformation into Zombie Tramp.
That is a pretty concise, spoiler-free run down of the plot of this issue. There is plenty of over the top violence and a pretty anti-cop sub-plot that definitely brought a smile to this subversive’s mug, however I think in this unfortunately right-leaning Trump era the thumbing of the nose at law enforcement could be a detriment to the title. Then again I doubt many Trump friendly readers count themselves among the fans of this ghoulish grindhouse extravaganza. The book has campy gore and sexually charged situations to spare, unfortunately most of it falls flat. The jokes are not funny or offensive they just aren’t anything, in fact they fizzle out before they can even bomb. Writer, artist, creator Dan Mendoza is wearing too many hats and the book suffers for it. Perhaps in the hands of a more experienced horror/comedy writer this character could work, but not here. The in your face sex is so dated it calls to mind such forgettable fare as Cherry Poptart and The Girl of late 80’s infamy.
The main problem for me with Zombie Tramp isn’t really the premise so much as the execution of the material (most of it should be executed); I know this is a re-issue of an earlier version of the book, so there is no reason for the minimalist backgrounds and extremely sloppy artwork, the problems with the narrative are a bit tougher to fix. Judging by my seemingly harsh review of this book you probably wouldn’t guess, but I’m a huge fan of campy horror, when it works its magical; Evil Dead, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and most recently the Gwar comic book are all examples of zany gore drenched horror. You might notice that these titles are a bit lacking in thinly veiled adolescent allusions to female body parts, large, balloon breasted women in peril and all around pointless nudity, that’s because these books have more complex plots and engrossing narratives.
Glenn Danzig once owned Verotik Publishing and the company specialized in the worst type of schlock, purely exploitative, rape fantasy crap, Zombie Tramp is not as bad as that, but only by degrees. Certainly the character Janey Belle has some redeeming qualities as a marketable, darker nc17 rated Harley Quinn. I mean I can completely picture Zombie Tramp t-shirts being sold at Hot Topic stores everywhere; only the coolest kids in the tenth grade would have them of course.
The artwork was slightly less problematic as I liked Mendoza’s blending of graffiti style images with 90’s Image traits, but the lack of attention to any anatomical detail was distracting, I mean come on, even Jim Balent attempted to ground his boob-bastic babes in a kind of reality. I mentioned the lack of background earlier, this I find the greater sin because it does so much to diminish the tone and setting of the narrative. Background detail can add so much emotion to the scene, for instance some dilapidated furniture or bombed out buildings go miles to describe the desperate setting in which this tale is placed. Rob Liefeld famously suffered from background-aphobia and his early art was as sterile as it comes. Some of the kinetic energy created by Mendoza’s wildly exaggerated anatomy that isn’t breasts is fun to look at even if it’s a guy getting the back of his head blown off, but these panels are few and far between. Over all I can’t say I enjoyed Zombie Tramp, but I can see how it might appeal to a younger audience. 2/5
written by Dan Mendoza
interior art and cover by Dan Mendoza