PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

How Popular Culture Helps keep us Human in "Key of Z"

Charles Moss

In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, or any emergency for that matter, or heck, even life in general, we take comfort in various forms of escapism, our popculture. In the case of the surviving humans in Key of Z, sports and music provide that need.

Key of Z

Publisher: BOOM ! Studios, Evil Ink Comics
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Claudio Sanchez, Chondra Echert, Aaron Kuder
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-09

The zombie apocalypse is upon us… again. It seems there’s one around every corner these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some zombies. I do. But just like vampires, the latest trend in all things flesh-eating and corpse-like is on the verge of becoming a bit stale, pardon the pun. And not just in Hollywood. From Robert Kirkman’s excellent series The Walking Dead to Marvel Zombies to BOOM Studios’ own 28 Days Later (which was adapted from the film of the same name), these guys and ghouls are creeping up everywhere. They’ve even made their way to the Centers for Disease Control web site, which provides a course in zombie safety. You know, before it blew up. So, when it comes to zombies, how do you keep things… heh, heh… fresh?

Claudio Sanchez, creator of Key of Z, the newest zombie-infested comic book series from BOOM! Studios and Evil Ink Comics, says this story stands out because it asks the question: Can zombies be manipulated to one man’s advantage?

Issue #1, which came out Oct. 19, starts off the series with what was: flashbacks of a man, his wife and their son enjoying Christmas morning. The young son gives his father a harmonica with an inscription, “I Love You Daddy”, which will eventually play an important part in the story. Ah, Key of Z. Gotcha.

That man is Nick Ewing, a Texas transplant living in New York City, the backdrop for this particular zombie outbreak. Formerly a security guard for an up-and-coming politician, he is now a loner seeking revenge on those who murdered his son and wife. Here’s a hint. They weren’t zombies.

Amid all of the zombies roaming around, the city’s survivors have been divided into three rival gangs residing in the city’s most famous sporting venues – Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and Citi Field. The leaders of the gangs, Charles Atwater, Yankee Lavoe and Jackson Met, all have different opinions about the future of the city. See if you can match the leader with his corresponding gang.

Though it borders on corny, Sanchez and co-writer Chondra Echert make a good point with the sports allusions. In the midst of a zombie apocalypse, or any emergency for that matter, or heck, even life in general, we take comfort in various forms of escapism, our pop culture. In the case of the surviving humans in Key of Z, sports and music provide that need.

Tony Moore of The Walking Dead fame provides a delightfully creepy incentive cover, reminiscent of the famous EC Comics story “Foul Play”, where baseball players are playing baseball with body parts. It’s worth the $3.99 alone. Inside, Aaron Kuder uses bright colors, brighter than expected for a zombie comicbook, but it works in reminding the reader that humans still very much exist in this story and the zombies are more of an aside. Kuder is not afraid to expose bones, rotting flesh and innards with his zombies but manages to keep from going the gratuitous route. Sometimes gratuity works but in this case, it helps to keep the attention focused on the human side of the story.

Sanchez, probably best known as the lead singer of the rock group Coheed and Cambria, makes the point that zombie stories are never really about the zombies themselves, but about the people who are trying to survive. Clearly, The Walking Dead is the best example of this. It’s hard not to make comparisons between these two stories, as Dead elevated the zombie tale, digging deep into what drives humans to become the metaphorical monsters they are capable of becoming when the circumstances are right, and the excesses they take to try so desperately to avoid it. It basically asks the questions: What makes us human? And how far will we go to save our humanity before becoming zombies ourselves? The series does a great job with character development. It will be interesting to see if Key of Z can take it to the same level.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.