Reactor Review: Double Take

By: dcoudust (a member of the FoCC forum)

From video games to comics to television, zombies, or some iteration of the undead abound; The Walking Dead has the highest viewership of any show in cable history; Game of Thrones has the most Emmy wins by a drama series; The Last of Us is the most acclaimed video game of the decade. Enter Double Take comics, the progeny of Take-Two Interactive and Bill Jemas. The former is a video game publisher, whose subsidiaries include Rockstar and 2K, and whose franchises include BioSchock, Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, and NBA 2K. In 2016, they reported revenue in excess of $400-million USD. The latter started his career at Marvel as VP of Marvel Entertainment Group in 1993 and in 2000 became president of consumer products. He was responsible for introducing Marvel MAX, removing the CCA (Comics Code Authority) label from Marvel publications, and co-founded the Marvel Ultimates line. In 2013 he joined Take-Two Interactive and oversaw the publication of ten series inspired by Night of the Living Dead licensed under Creative Commons. Unfortunately, readers did not respond kindly to Double Take, comics are in their last throes and The Walking Dead has seemingly cornered the market on zombies. Double Take shuttered their doors in November 2016, but not before releasing their ten series as graphics novels.

Each publication contains five issues, following different characters whose stories all intertwine with each other. Events are shown from different perspectives and there is considerable overlap in content (And while the overlap is rather tedious when reading graphic novels back-to-back, it could be overlooked when consumed on a monthly basis) Each series covers two days, Sunday April 24th to Sunday April 25th 1966, in Evans County, Pennsylvania with an occasional sojourn to Washington DC, another dimension, and a spaceship. An unknown event – possibly a probe, an engineered disease, etc – has caused an epidemic and the dead are rising. It’s all rather familiar. We spend time with officers and doctors and government agents and intergalactic travelers who traverse dimensions. Well, it’s not all rather familiar. One narrative hook involves individuals describing experiences about their first times – sex, guns, etc. It’s all meant to be rather mundane, think the introduction of Jules and Verne in Pulp Fiction, as they go about their routines. It’s light and fun and for the most part succeeds. For those willing, Remote: Dead Air and Dedication: Checked Out offer the opportunity for serious critical analysis. Home: Lighter Than Air is arguably the most fun, if only for the Stewie-inspired Lisa, whose selections include: “You think you’re getting into my sister’s pants? She’s not that easy. I bet you never been laid before. Dry d*ck motherf*cker.” This isn’t engrossing storytelling and the art is more utilitarian than inspiring. And while some of the novels can drag on – I didn’t care much for Medic: Flatline and the LBJ-Wallace exchanges did nothing for me – most readers should be satisfied.

Within each graphic novel are various inserts/advertisements/information pages. The ‘Then/Now’ insert informs us from 1966 to 2015 the from 3.4- to 7.2-billion, the rise of McDonald’s and Walmart, and the propagation of the prison, health, and political industrial complexes. The ‘1960s Movements’ insert covers Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation, and Anti-War movements, with associated slogans: “Say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud”, “Equal Pay for Equal Work”, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today”, and so on and so forth.Unfortunately, it’s only with these inserts that you get any sense of time and place (With the exception of the rather sanitized discourse concerning civil rights between LBJ and Wallace and somewhat clichéd Spring: Sink or Swim and Slab: The Doctor is In) The inserts themselves are diegetic, but one cannot help but feel they were included to redress the aforementioned deficiency concerning the zeitgeist. Nevertheless, some are entertaining, such as the cheeky Marlboro advertisement with its own Surgeon General’s Warning: Smoking makes you smell bad, look stupid, and die a slow painful death. Others cover the etymology of expressions, popular culture, NASA, and the use of swimming pools by American Presidents. The latter may seem esoteric, but it is relevant to story, and ultimately necessary for what otherwise would be considered a poorly conceived scenario.

Below are images of the covers of the graphic novels for this series.