7:54 a.m., September 27th, 1974. Classes are about to start at the Ben Turpin School (grades K-8), and Mr. Elber is finishing up a disappointing extra-credit bio lab, in which he and two students failed to reanimate a deceased fetal pig. Not only did the experiment flop, but now there’s a weird purple smoke wafting up from all the chemicals. It smells really bad, and soon it has drifted outside the classroom and into the rest of the school. Before long, all the adults and most of the children are feeling unwell: symptoms include upset tummies, blanched complexions, drooling, and a ravenous urge to eat other people.
On the bright side, this zombie contagion only affects people who’ve hit puberty. The fourth-grade heroes of the story are hormonally immune to zombiefication. On the other hand, they’ve still got to defend themselves against being eaten alive—and the doors to the school are locked! Who will save them?
Fourth-grader Bob Fingerman, that’s who! Coincidentally sharing a name with the author, young Bob leads his classmates in a desperate plan to break free. Armed with épées, hockey sticks, and baseball bats from the gym, the children wage battle against their undead elders, with only their wits and their crude weapons to preserve them. (And a deus ex machina. The armored truck filled with weapons helps the situation considerably when it crashes through the wall.)
This is campy, silly, gory fun. The pictures are gross, not horrific, with over-the-top violence depicted in ookey splendor on the pages of the graphic novel, again and again and again to the point of absurdity (“Odd how something so terrifying can become redundant so soon,” quips one of the sidekicks). The one-liners are abundant and the humor is sophomoric. Because of the excessive violence, we’ve got this shelved in the adult section of the graphic novels, and my official party line is that this book is appropriate for mature readers, though privately I think it’s perfect for thirteen-year-old boys, or for any adult who never bothered to grow up.
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