Review: Dead of Winter #1

In the pantheon of heroes, none are more lovable and loyal than everyone’s beloved good ol’ dog, Sparky. Surviving in the wintery apocalypse of the undead, this former TV star turned zombie killing machine just wants to make friends and be a good boy. As his fellow survivors scavenge for supplies in the frigid wasteland, will Sparky be able to protect his companions from threats both undead and not yet undead?

The smash-hit board game Dead of Winter by Plaid Hat Games comes to comics courtesy of writer Kyle Starks and artist Gabo. For those who don’t know, Dead of Winter is a tabletop cooperative board game where teams of individuals have to work together with a twist, each has their own agenda, and that agenda might not be the best for the group.

I myself haven’t played the game but have circled it enough times to get a general sense of what’s going on without the fine detail (and this is one I eventually do want to get… but the pile of games already!).

This first issue dives into the world with the various personalities from the game including its break out star Sparky and translates the game itself really well. Starks does a solid job of capturing things from the game in a way that players will appreciate it and new readers will just enjoy it (searching the police station and grocery store are examples). The comic is decent creating a new addition to the saturated zombie market and doing just enough to create a unique view of it all.

The comic achieves that uniqueness by focusing on translating the game. In the game you’re limited to actions such as scavenging, attacking, clearing trash, moving between locations, etc. and this comic has each of those moments making it feel like decisions are being made in a game. What also works is that each character introduced has their own personality in a way that it feels like a group of people sitting around the game table tackling a scenario. Its translation of the game experience creates a bonus in many ways. Whether more mechanics, like secret win conditions, will be introduced and if they are how. Those secret win conditions are simply enough motivations for each character and how closely the comic will adheare to that is unknown.

There’s also the focus on Sparky who plays a big role in the comic and gives you a loveable dog to cheer for. There’s been a few “animal” focused comics lately but here we see man’s best friend front and center and kicking lots of ass.

Gabo’s art is the interesting aspect of it all. There’s obviously many other zombie focused comics out there and this one takes a different turn with a more cartoon aspect to it. Not only is the grittiness diminished due to that, but it also deviates from the board game’s art. I’m a little torn about it actually as the cartoon(ish) look takes away some of the tension but if the comic mimicked the game art, it’d just look like every other zombie comic out there. Instead we get something that feels like a cross between Walking Dead and Plants vs Zombies. By the end I didn’t notice it but towards the beginning it stood out.

The first issue does a good job of capturing the game and gives more than enough nods to it so that long time fans will be satisfied and it’s done in a way that’s not overwhelming for new readers. The comic has a grasp of what makes the game special in many ways and overall the success of the series will rest in how it translates all of that as the series goes on. So far though, it’s really getting me to want to finally dive in and play this game that I’ve heard such amazing things about, watched play, but never had a chance to play myself (Gen Con here I come!).

Story: Kyle Starks Art: Gabo
Story: 8.05 Art: 7.0 Overall: 7.85 Recommendation: Read

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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