“I dunno, you girls’re like… invincible ‘r somethin’! Like a two-lady Roman phalanx.” —Lou the Handyman
I’ll be honest that I’m not typically a fan of zombie-apocalypse stories. I find they’re kind of overplayed throughout movies, comics, and video games to the point of being rather cliche. I think the reason I was able to get into Allison Shabet’s Dead Winter was because the zombie uprising functions mainly as a backdrop for the story—the zombies are more a part of the setting than part of the plot. I like that this allows for greater focus on the characters and their interaction with each other and with their crumbling, post-apocalyptic environment.
One aspect of Allison’s story that really stood out for me was the strength of her heroines. My experience with zombie stories is that the women characters tend to be either useless screamers or tough chicks trying to get more kills than the guys. I hate both of these archetypes. The screamers are, well, useless—thankfully many of them die early on, breaking a heel while fleeing down a dark alley. I find the tough chicks tend to be near-sighted characters sacrificing any sense of self-preservation and teamwork for a sense of machismo.
Frankly, zombie apocalypses are best survived through cooperation and teamwork, and the characteristics I admire most in Allison’s leading ladies are the strength and bravery they draw from fighting beside and protecting those they care about. Our heroines Lizzie and Alice—a waitress and a nurse, respectively—have no formal training or combat experience, but manage to survive in their collapsing world by working together and playing upon their respective strengths. They save each others’ lives frequently and form the heart and soul of their little band of survivors—and without a bunch of needless “girl-power” overtones. Over the course of the story so far, Liz and Alice have gone from fellow survivors, to friends, to besties. There’s a sisterly, partners-in-crime camaraderie between them that I’ve rarely seen created so smartly or believably.
One of my biggest pet peeves with zombie stories is the frequency by which short shorts and cleavage become an accepted dress code for post-apocalyptic survival. Since zombie-itis is commonly spread through zombie bites, the number-one rule of zombie survival is “don’t let one bite you!” Thus the optimal bite prevention is to f***ing wear clothes! Heavy cotton is difficult for human teeth to bite through, so long shirts and pants go a long way toward protecting against zombie outbreaks.
For this reason I deeply appreciate that the characters of Dead Winter know to layer up to stay safe from zombie bites. Both Alice and Lizzer wear long-sleeve hoodies and jeans. Alice prefers her nurse’s jacket with the Red Cross on the back, while Liz wears her waitressing workshirt over her sweatshirt. The hoods offer an added benefit of protecting from the rain, cold, or zombie teeth. Similarly important, they both make sure to layer their clothes for additional protection. While there are other dangers out there, like renegade cops, renegade G.I.s, and biker gangs, when zombies are the primary threat, it makes best sense to layer up. I think it says a lot about our heroines as well when they opt for sensible footwear, instead of the high heels so popular in pulp horror movies. Alice has a favorite pair of Converse she likes to wear, and Lizzie rocks a sturdy pair of hiking shoes.
Additionally, both ladies keep the tools of their trade on them when traversing the zombie-infested city. Their arsenal starts out minimalist, Liz wielding a mop while Alice swings a frying pan. But as the story progresses, they add guns and ammo belts as well as food and other supplies. Our rosy Lizzie makes use of the pockets on her cargo pants for her pen and notepad, as well as the pain pills for her cracked rib. Later she adds a satchel for her snack bars, extra socks, and other amenities. Nurse Alice carries a medicine bag for most of her supplies.
Finally, I have to add a link to the most badass car chase I’ve ever seen in a webcomic: a Dodge Charger and two Harley-Davidsons versus renegade cops and a biker gang, with Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart” for the soundtrack. Many thanks to Allison for letting me borrow her heroines. Thanks once again for reading, folks, and stay awesome.
All images courtesy Allison Shabet, used with permission.