Comic Book Review: “Blackburn Burrow”

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Since I was a kid I’ve been a fan of alternative history fiction – especially when it’s horror fiction. It seems to be a niche you see more often in books than movies, with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter being the only horror film in recent memory to employ this particular device. Comic books, on the other hand – well they’ve been doing this stuff for years, going back to the “Golden Age” when WWII provided the backdrop for many of the old E.C. horror comics.

These days zombies are all the rage, so it’s only natural that the undead come to take their place in our nation’s history. Enter Blackburn Burrow, a comic about zombies set during the American Civil War. Blackburn Burrow presents the story of “Mister,” a former soldier turned monster hunter who is called back to service by the Union army to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a lost regiment. This isn’t the first time zombies have been put in a historical context, but what makes it unique is how this book is being put together.

Blackburn Burrow is published by Amazon Studios, a branch of Amazon.com that was formed back in 2010 to develop original movie projects. The comic is based on a screenplay, and it’s being used as a way to “test the waters” for a potential feature film. Blackburn Burrow is offered as a free digital comic on multiple platforms, and in keeping with the crowd-sourcing model for Amazon Studios, fan input will be a big part of guiding the story.

From the Amazon press release:

SEATTLE—September 12, 2012—Amazon Studios, the original content arm of Amazon.com, Inc., is introducing an all-new digital comic book today – Blackburn Burrow, a story set in Civil War America where supernatural horrors are infesting a small Appalachian town in Northern Georgia. Blackburn Burrow first came to Amazon Studios in the form of a feature film screenplay from writer Jay Levy. Community feedback, gathered from Amazon Studios’ crowdsourcing model, triggered the idea for the popular project to be adapted into a digital comic that would be shared with audiences for feedback and tested for viability as a major motion picture.

The Blackburn Burrow digital comic looks and reads like a traditional book and is available for free through a variety of sites and platforms including top digital comic provider Graphicly, as well as AmazonStudios.com, Amazon Studios Facebook page and the Kindle Store. For more information on how to get the comic, visit www.amazonstudios.com or search for Blackburn Burrow in the Kindle Store.

Amazon Studios’ Blackburn Burrow digital comic book is produced by 12 Gauge Comics, which teamed with renowned comics writer Ron Marz (Silver Surfer, Green Lantern, Marvel vs. DC, Batman/Aliens) and veteran illustrator Matthew Dow Smith (Doctor Who, X-Men Icons, Mirror’s Edge, Day of Judgment) to shape the story and look of the comic.

“This is a very exciting new venture for Amazon Studios. Beyond entertaining lots of comic fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement,” said Roy Price, Director of Amazon Studios. “The 12 Gauge team has done beautiful work on the Blackburn Burrow digital comic and we are thrilled to share it with audiences to see how they react to the story of Blackburn Burrow.”

Like movie and episodic series projects that exist within Amazon Studios, the public will have the opportunity to provide feedback and direction on Blackburn Burrow as the story continues to unfold. The entire Blackburn Burrow comic will be released over a period of four months with new issues coming out every four weeks. Each release will be accompanied by a poll (www.blackburnburrowsurvey.com) related to content in that issue that encourages readers to give feedback and provide comments.

About Blackburn Burrow:
In Blackburn Burrow, Mister is a legendary fighter rumored to take on the strange and supernatural. When a Union general requests his help in investigating the disappearance of a group of his soldiers from a small town in the South, Mister initially declines, refusing to get involved in the politics between the North and the South. Mister’s interest, however, is piqued when the last contact with these soldiers referenced the walking dead and a man Mister has been tracking all his life, the man who brought him into this world. Mister teams with Merrin, a young female survivor, to stop an ancient uprising and discover the family secret that connects his past to the small town of Blackburn Burrow.

I am a big proponent of crowd-sourcing, and I think using a comic book as both a storyboard and a means to build buzz for a potential movie is a great idea – and based on what I saw in the first issue, Blackburn Burrow does have potential.

Ron Marz/Jay Levy provide some good story telling, and the period dialog seems authentic without going over the top. The notion of a main character named “Mister” is a little cheesy (that old 80s pop band Mr. Mister comes to mind) and I’m guessing if this project does make it to the movie development stage, that’ll be one of the first things to go. The “Mister” character also seems a little bland for a monster hunter – at least so far. We’re only on the first issue, so it’ll be interesting to see where the fans take him.

The art of Blackburn Burrow is provided by Matthew Smith, and while I know a lot of people love his stylized kind of illustration, I’m not really one of them. For me, the art just looks flat – but what can I say – I’ll always be a diehard fan of the old school E.C. horror comics, so I’m probably biased.

Check out Blackburn Burrow for yourself at http://www.12gaugecomics.com/title/index/id/51

Rating: 3.25/5 ★★★¼☆ 

 

One final thing to note – if it does make it past the comic book stage, Blackburn Burrow wouldn’t be the first zombie movie set during the Civil War.  Exit Humanity is a film starring Dee Wallace and Bill Moseley: “A young man’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of a deadly undead outbreak during the American Civil War.Exit Humanity is a Canadian film distributed by Bloody Disgusting Selects, and recently available on DVD. (Look for an upcoming review, but in the mean time, check out the trailer below.)

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About Dave_P

Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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