Dead Winter is a zombie story that doesn't pall as much as you would think, I'm fully aware that it's a genre that's been over with a fine-tooth comb but it's not one that has made a decent show in webcomics, I guess this would be the start because this is a thrilling hijack into the realm of the walking dead.
Including one of the most extensive and acerbic bio pages I've seen in webcomics, even from the first page, the style is a fluid blend of bent snarky retakes on the zombie genre. The main protagonist, Lizzie, is a waitress, a miserable waitress in a horrible diner about to be inserted into zombie bloodlusty abandon. As the epidemic spreads she finds herself instructed by a dream/space that mirrors the chaos of the outside world.
This doesn't feel like a starter webcomic, there's a clear feeling from the start that this has been planned into a long narrative arc.The strip uses the now standard trope of medical infection leading to zombification, (I am Legend, 28 days later, Resident Evil). if the actual origin of the zombies here are ambitious, then they are just one layer in this strip, a menacing background against which our protagonists are struggling against in various ways.
The artwork is complex but overlayered with a fluid cartoony sheen, typically this would be a contradiction in terms but the artwork gells quite well with this hyperactive paean to the zombie misadventure. I've not seen various shades of grey used so artfully and the shadowing used adds a certain background élan.
For once in webcomics the action sequences are credible, hyper-active matrix style scuffling littered with invective, carried out by the character of hitman/sociopath Black Monday Blues, an injection of vigour and pure fun into the zombie proceedings, if nothing else his insults are these adjective driven pieces of slick murderous bile.
Likewise the use of vibrant red in his sunglasses and Lizzie's bandanna are a nice touch against the typical grey used. The dream sequences are something else entirely, the occasional use of background motifs (the stylised skull in strip 42, the near filmic cut scene in strip 84) are again, not something you typically see in webcomics of any genre. There's an underlying complexity here that the reader would be brash to ignore if they merely see the cartoony vibe of the strip.
Black Monday is not alone in being over the top in this strip, there is a lot of melodramatics and clichés present here and a lot of emotional complexity used for what is even in horror a sub-genre seen as particularly shallow. This is an incursion of the real into the slapstick gore of the zombie gig. There are dark undercurrents present here and the nature of the zombie story typically is another take on the survival, looking at what it means to be heroic. Overall, everything is tight, the dialogue can be somewhat corny, but it's a self-aware and sharp approach to the strip. It pulls it off because it doesn't falter in its brief to be a an energetic mix of pathos and pure fun.
*I just had to put in a Manic Street Preacher reference for the title, it just felt so right.