Zombillenium volume 3: Control Freaks


By Arthur de Pins (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-56163-956-4

Arthur de Pins is a British-born French filmmaker, commercial artist and Bande Dessinées creator whose strips – such as adult comedy Peccadilloes (AKA Cute Sins) and On the Crab – have appeared in Fluide Glacial and Max.

In recent years his superbly arch and beautifully illustrated supernatural horror-comedy Zombillénium has become his greatest success (keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming movie!): a truly addictive comics cult classic which began in 2009 (serialised in Spirou from #3698 on) and has now filled three albums released in English thanks to Canadian publisher NBM.

Rendered with beguiling style and sleek, easy confidence, the unfolding saga details the odd goings-on in a horror theme park run by real monsters and operated by capitalistically-inclined infernal powers and, with this latest volume, we finally get to peek behind the curtain a little to see who – and what – is pulling the strings…

Zombillenium is a truly magical entertainment experience celebrating all aspects of the spooky and supernatural, where (human) families can enjoy a happy day out rubbing shoulders with werewolves and witches and all breeds of bogeyman. Of course, those enthralled visitors customers might not laugh so hard if they knew all the monsters were real, usually hungry and didn’t much like humans … except in a culinary fashion…

The inaugural volume introduced hard-working, humane Director/vampire Francis Von Bloodt, newly-reborn Aurelian Zahner (a pathetically inept thief until he expired at the park and returned transformed into a demonic indentured employee of the business) and quirky British Witch Gretchen: a young newcomer interning at the park whilst secretly advancing her own agenda.

As they individually toiled away at the vast entertainment enterprise its true nature was slowly revealed: for unwary, unlucky mortals the site is a conduit to the domain of the damned and its devilish overlord Behemoth: an intolerant horror ever-hungry for fresh souls…

For the uncanny undead workers in Zombillenium, conditions of employment worsen every day: it is one of the least profitable holiday destinations on Earth and The Board are always threatening to make sweeping changes…

Despite the incredible bargaining power of the many monster Trade Unions, the only way out of a Zombillenium contract is the True Death and a final transition to Hell; yet for some reason the shop-stewards prefer to blame Aurelian for all their woes and seem determined to drive him out.

Stuck between a rock and a hot place, Zahner gradually adapts to his new (un)life of constant sorrow and grows closer to Gretchen after she shares with him her own life-story; revealing what he has become whilst disclosing what she’s really doing at the Park. The big boob has no idea how much she left out…

The saga moves into apocalyptic high gear with Control Freaks as Gretchen’s private plot gathers pace after she makes contact with a loved one currently confined in Hell. The bold sorceress promises a seemingly impossible liberation before sneaking out, whilst in the mortal world a long-dreaded day dawns and all the arcane artisans and supernatural staff quail at some really Big News…

A Consultant has been despatched to “observe” how the park is run but everybody from Von Bloodt to the Shop-Stewards know that elite vampire Bohémond Jaggar de Rochambeau is actually here to take the business by the throat and shake things up. They have no idea just how much everything is about to change…

One of the most unfortunate aspects of the fearsome funfair is that any human who dies on Zombillenium property is instantly reborn as a monster, owned by Behemoth and compelled to work eternally in the theme park until the master takes them below. Under Francis’ governance that’s been wisely offset by a set of stringent rules, the first of which states that no employee is ever allowed to attack a human…

Jaggar has other ideas. Before long he has impetuously killed a little girl and delivered in no uncertain terms the new working time directives to Francis and the astounded staff. The Park is a pump designed to generate money for the shareholders and a steady supply of souls to Behemoth. Now the old, timid tolerant ways championed by Von Bloodt have been superseded by more robust policies which demand bigger returns on both sides of the investment…

The news is met with mixed feelings by the workforce: most are scared, appalled and resistant. For some however it’s the opportunity they’ve long argued for: a chance to feed and feast and hunt all those obnoxious yet tasty human morsels…

With isolated attacks reported all over the park Aurelian suddenly goes into a rage-fuelled meltdown and Gretchen uses his colossal rampage to trigger an evacuation of Zombillenium. Casualties are kept to a minimum even though Jaggar is openly egging on the demonically transcendent Zahner to cut loose. With the park emptied by panic, however, the cutthroat Consultant is temporarily stymied…

Unfortunately, his new business model very much piques the greedy interest of the Board and before long Francis is out and Jaggar is Director; actively encouraging the killing of unattached or unaccompanied humans, who now come in droves to the most exciting entertainment experience in the world.

It’s all too much for ambulatory Egyptian Mummy Aton who enlists the aid of change-resistant union boss Sirius Jefferson to orchestrate an inspired industrial action which closes the Park. Management’s retaliation is swift, decisive and infernally effective and, as Gretchen and Aurelian get a message from an ally in Hell, in Jaggar’s Zombillenium irrevocable lines are drawn for a final battle to win the stilled hearts and captive souls of the enslaved employees…

To Be Continued…

One of the most engaging candidates in a burgeoning category of seditiously mature and subversively ironic horror-comedies, this superb and deliciously arch tale combines pop-cultural archetypes with smart and sassy contemporary insouciance and a solid reliance on the verities of Nature, Human and not…

Sly, smart, sexy and scarily hilarious, Zombillenium achieves that spectacular trick of marrying slapstick with satire in a manner reminiscent of Asterix and Cerebus the Aardvark, whilst easily treading its own path. You’ll curse yourself for missing out and if you don’t there are things out there which will. © Dupuis 2013 by De Pins. All rights reserved.