In case you’ve just awakened from a coma, zombies are all the rage. Movies, books, TV shows, comic books, guns, optics, ammo, you name it, the undead are among us. More than $5 billion a year is spent on Zombie related products. Whether you just love the original Romero movies for their schlocky fun or view the modern zombie phenomena as way to prep for disaster while appearing harmless, or hover somewhere in between, there is something on the market out there for you. Here’s a quick guide to seven of the best zombie or zombie-related offerings out there…
THE BEST ZOMBIE NOVEL
In this category there just really isn’t any competition to Max Brooks’ novel World War Z. Not only did it make the New York Times' bestseller list, it was critically acclaimed. I have read a lot of zombie fiction, and either it's to esoteric, filled with too much superstition/magic, or just poorly imagined. World War Z, "An Oral History of the Zombie War" is none of that. Told from the point of view of someone researching the war a decade later, this is one heck of a book, and huge in scale. Brooks has approached the topic matter dead seriously, so you will find no tongue in cheek humor, just straight out writing. He must have played a lot of “What if?” scenarios in his head, because this is a seriously well thought out novel.
It's so good, in fact, that you will see the movie version hitting theaters sometime next year, starring none other than Brad Pitt. If the movie is even half as good as the book, it will be the best zombie movie ever. From a book by the son of one of the funniest men ever, the famous movie director Mel Brooks—how’s that for ironic?
THE BEST ZOMBIE MOVIE
If there’s one sure way to provoke a fight between zombiephiles it's to make them choose the best zombie movie. There are the traditionalists who will always choose George Romero’s original, Night of the Living Dead. Then there are the educated traditionalists who will point out that Romero got the idea from the novella I Am Legend by legendary writer Richard Matheson. The number of his books and stories made into movies is long and lengthy (I think the most recent one is The Box). While the antagonists in the story are officially vampires, their behavior is the key. This story was first turned into the movie Omega Man starring Charlton Heston long before Will Smith made his on-screen turn. Admitting I prefer the recent Dawn of the Dead remake starring Ving Rhames over Romero’s original would get me pelted with eggs by some zombiephiles, but that’s the truth. 28 Days Latercould also be considered for this title, even though officially the subjects in this movie are infectees rather than zombies. The sequel 28 Weeks Later, surprisingly, did not suck.
All of the movies I have just mentioned are entertaining, and if you like zombie movies and haven’t seen one of them, check them out. However, just to be contrary, I am going to say that my favorite zombie movie is 1985’s Return of the Living Deadwith Clu Gulager and James Karen. Not only does it have some scares, it is very funny and doesn’t take itself seriously (Dan O’Bannon of Alien fame co-wrote and directed it). Plus you get to see Linnea Quigley in all her glory as Trash, the punker zombie.
THE BEST ZOMBIE KILLIN’ KIT
Just as when talking about self-defense, the best gun to use for killing zombies is the gun you have with you when the dead start walking the earth. Whether they are truly the reanimated undead or just people infected with something that turns them into bloodthirsty maniacs, you don’t want them anywhere near you. You especially don’t want their blood on you, so the farther away you can take them out, the better—that means a rifle.
If you are like most people, you don’t have the time or energy or background knowledge to know what to shop for when putting together a quality zombie killing kit, but luckily for you Stag Arms this year debuted their 2012 Executive Survival Kit.
In addition to a 16-inch barreled AR-15 topped with an EOTech holosight, this kit includes 60 rounds of ammunition, two 30-round magazines, a spare parts kit, Otis cleaning kit, sling, military MRE, first aid kit, Gerber flashlight and multi-tool, and AA batteries for the flashlight and EOTech. All of this is packed into a watertight wheeled Pelican Model 1700 case, and the kit retails for $2012. If you don’t have the time to get it all yourself, the Stag ESK is one-stop-shopping for all your End of the World needs. Nowhere in any of the literature does Stag use the word zombie, but there is a picture of the Mayan calendar on the outside of the Pelican case…close enough.
BEST ZOMBIE TARGETS
This year's SHOT Show was awash in zombie this and zombie that, including a plethora of zombie targets. Some were drawn, others were photorealistic and so graphic they made me a little queasy. There were even some dead-like (we can't use the term "life-like" when referring to zombies can we?) zombies that actually "bled" when shot at.
If you are shooting at zombie targets you automatically aren't taking yourself seriously, so I can find no better targets than the zombie animals from Champion.
You have your choice of Radiation Rabbit, Prairie Dog Down, Psychotic Squirrel and various other undead critters. When you shoot these VisiColor targets in the body you will get fluorescent yellow to show your hits. Shoot them in the head and you'll get radiation green. The animals are cute...and yet decaying.
Kudos to Champion.
THE BEST ZOMBIE DEAL
Hornady made a lot of news this past year with the debut of their new Zombie Max line of ammunition. The driving force behind this is Steve Hornady, who is a huge fan of all things zombie. It's because of him that Hornady now offers green-tipped ammo specifically designed for killing zombies. Available in a huge number of calibers, including 12 gauge, this is actual, real loaded ammo. And it’s effective as well, to quote them—“Have you seen any zombies lately?”
A lot of people at the company (including family members) thought the whole “zombie ammo” thing would be a huge waste of resources and end up losing them money, and you should be happy about that. Why? Because they priced the ammo $.50/box cheaper than their standard ammo! Considering this ammo is exactly the same as their premium stuff, only with green polymer in the FTP pistol bullets and V-Max rifle projectiles instead of red, it’s a Win-Win! (A win for you, because it’s a deal, and a win for them because they are selling the snot out of the stuff.)
THE BEST ZOMBIE…..ANYTHING…..PERIOD
I am a fan of the whole zombie genre, not just as great escapist fiction but also as a not-so-subtle euphemism for a lot of things in our increasingly fractured society. I have not found anything yet that encompasses, expounds on, and examines in minute detail everything about all things zombie that can compare to The Walking Dead comic book series.
I only became aware of the comic book series when AMC turned it into their very successful and well-done cable TV series. I have now read 60 issues out of the 96 (or so) total comics that have been done, and let me tell you, it is some of the best zombie/apocalypse/end of the world stuff I’ve ever come across. Most of the comics (and the TV show for that matter, although the TV show follows its own plot lines) deal with how man is his own worst enemy. The zombies in The Walking Dead could easily be replaced by a pandemic or some other society-killing plague—they exist only as the fulcrum for the breakdown of society.
The Walking Dead: Compendium One collects the first 48 issues of the comics, and can be found online for $35 or so—not a bad price for over a thousand pages of really good stuff, none of which is suitable for kids or anyone with a delicate disposition, but let me tell you—they made it into a TV series for a reason. It is horribly good.