DEAD OF WINTER #2 picks up, naturally, where DEAD OF WINTER #1 left off. A bomb splits up our team of five heroes outside the police station. The whereabouts of Gabriel Diaz, Annaleigh Chen, and Ruckus Burley are unknown, and we find Forest Plum, leering over the unconscious body of Carla Thompson, while Sparky, our universally beloved super dog, stalks over.

All of this is happening, of course, during the middle of winter, during the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

At this point, the story has to resolve in some way. But rather than keeping the light air of the first comic, the same creative team as before — Kyle Starks writing and Gabriel “Gabo” Bautista coloring and illustrating — lets things get grim.

CLICK: Did you missed the first DEAD OF WINTER issue? Read our review here!

Tying Two Stories Together

This issue starts with two different teams and two different stories to tell. Sparky and Carla decide to go looking inside the darkened police station to see if their missing team really did die from the explosion; their main setback is the loud, obnoxious, and strung-out Forest Plum, a former mall Santa.

DEAD OF WINTER #2
Image courtesy of Oni Press

Gabe, Annaleigh, and Ruckus find themselves zip-tied up and held in an old interrogation cell. Staying true to its theme, zombies are not the worst problem in a zombie apocalypse. A gun-toting, deranged police man becomes their primary antagonist.

DEAD OF WINTER #2
Image courtesy of Oni Press

READ: Want to see how another zombie story also tackles multiple plot lines? Head over to our review of WALKING DEAD #170!

Both of the stories have rather different goals. Carla and Sparky face a stealth mission; the others face talking down a madman with a gun. And yet, considering the different paces of action in each, the comic weaves these two narratives together without losing tension or pacing in the story. Whereas one story could have been favored over the other, this is not the case, and when the stories do eventually merge, it comes off as natural.

Characters Develop to Make Readers Hurt More

One place where DEAD OF WINTER #2 outshone DEAD OF WINTER #1 is the time we got to spend learning about the characters. Although there is some level of exposition to describe the situations of others, it comes off feeling natural and stays within the plot of the story.

A subtle thing that the writing does well is making sure each character has his or her own voice. We see this in the legal diction of Annaleigh Chen (former attorney). We even see it in the somewhat heavy-handed vulgarities and epigrams of Ruckus. These are just two examples of many that let us see the characters’ personalities through what they do and what they say.

DEAD OF WINTER #2
Image courtesy of Oni Press

CLICK: ComicsVerse examines the psychology of characters in horror films!

Granted, this characterization is all the more profound once these fleshed-out characters become zombie chow.

Two characters don’t make it out alive, and that came as a real gut-punch. One death, off panel, reminds a character to dig deep and uncover inner resolve; the other death serves to remind us that the zombies are unrelenting in their tide against the remaining humans.

Under normal circumstances, their deaths would not move me. The reason is because the characters who die don’t have much “screen time” prior to the bite. Yet because of their actions while they’re around, I wanted to know more about these individuals. I did not want to see these character die. That’s a testament to the creative team and what they did with strong character creation.

READ: Want to know what not to do in character development? Read our analysis on blocking in THE WALKING DEAD!

Cartoony Art Conceals the Grim Tone — Until We Remember

Gabo Bautista’s cartoony-but-grim pencils, established in the series’ first issue, give a unique feel to the world of DEAD OF WINTER. DEAD OF WINTER #2 shares those same virtues, but also has some of the same flaws. Some characters share the same facial expressions but just have different hair. There is the mildest through-and-through bullet wound I’ve ever witnessed. Nevertheless, the art of DEAD OF WINTER #2 has some gripping moments, too. The flaming wreckage of the protagonists’ car against a dark background puts us, emotionally, into the same place as the character who witnesses it. Another frame shows us the back of a zombie’s head as a bullet rips through its mouth, kicking teeth hither and yon over the panel.

Because of this style, DEAD OF WINTER #2 pulls an interesting trick on the readers. The art presents first as a goofy zombie splatter fest, long enough until we — and maybe even the characters themselves — let down our guard. Then, at the moment we think the characters are safe, we’re reminded just how deadly the circumstances are in the world. As to quote Ruckus himself, “Buddy, this is the god damned apocalypse. The police is gone. There ain’t no laws except ‘don’t get bit by no zomboys.’” The art reinforces this central tenant of the setting.

Final Thoughts on DEAD OF WINTER #2

The world of DEAD OF WINTER is strange — it balances tension and despair against a dark and self-referential humor. It contains memorable characters too over-the-top for reality until we remember just how tenuous their grasp on life remains.

CLICK: Want more speculation on morality in zombie stories? ComicsVerse delivers!

DEAD OF WINTER #2 reinforced the themes, style, and tone of DEAD OF WINTER #1 while shoring up some of the rushed characterization of the first issue. Although issue #2 ends in an uncertain way, I expect the second half of the series to keep us chuckling — but not without the body count rising, bite by bite.

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DEAD OF WINTER #2 by Kyle Stark and Gabriel "Gabo" Bautista
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
A slower paced plot lets the audience get more attached to the characters. Too bad the zombie apocalypse has something to say about that.
77 %
"Zomboys" get real
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