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Comic Book / Dead Eyes Open

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Dr. John Requin is sick.

For one thing, he can't sleep — he doesn't have insomnia, he literally cannot sleep. He requires a special diet of high-protein foods (currently, he's subsisting mostly on tofu). He's lost his sense of smell. That's almost a good thing, though, because he's starting to smell himself — and unless he keeps the thermostat in his office turned down as low as it can go, the smell gets worse. He would bathe, but he's afraid that if he does, the water will only make the problem worse. His skin is peeling and falling off and doing worse things than that, forcing him to keep the lights down when he's at the office. Naturally, since he's a therapist, all of this is having a profoundly negative effect on his ability to do his job. His wife is very loving and supportive about all of this, but his young daughter is becoming increasingly withdrawn and confrontational, unable to cope with the changes her father is going through. It's enough to make someone want to die — except that, technically, John Requin already has.

At first, John wonders if he's the only one in the world with his condition. Then he sees an article in the tabloids about outbreaks of "the living dead" in cities around the world, and feels a glimmer of hope — hope that quickly turns to horror when he reads further, and learns of the measures the government is preparing to take against these "mockeries of life."

So begins Dead Eyes Open, a comic by Matt Shepherd and Roy Boney, Jr. that takes the typical Zombie Apocalypse story and turns it on its head. The comic was published from 2005 to 2006 by Slave Labor Graphics, and re-released in 2007 as a graphic novel. Starting July 5, 2009, the creators began posting the comic page-by-page on a blog; the last page went up on January 22, 2010. The first page used to be here, but unfortunately the domain appears to have expired.

This series provides examples of:

  • Big Bad: Ellard turns out to be masterminding a plot to kill all Returners.
  • Boom, Headshot!: The preferred way of dealing with rogue Returners (the other alternative being massive body trauma, like giant holes blown through the chest), and thus unapologetically abused in the fight scenes.
  • The Chessmaster: Ellard is manipulating both sides of the Returner civil rights battle to further his own agenda.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: John's a family therapist, but he's got a terrible relationship with his daughter after his death.
  • Deader than Dead: Returners are already clinically dead, but massive trauma to the chest or head can kill them again. So can a specially-tailored anti-Returner virus, a fact Ellard intends to prove.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A socially-disenfranchised minority fights for rights and acceptance in a world that fears and hates them. Am I talking about Blacks, Jews, gays, or Returners? (And yes, references to all three of the preceding examples are used to characterize the Returner plight, and repeatedly lampshaded — Requin specifically protests the government's Returner internment camps, pointing out that he's Jewish.)
  • Eye Scream: A few, including one Returner junkie getting shot in the eyeballs with tranquilizer darts (since, as Returner hearts obviously don't pump, it's the only way to get the drugs to the brain), several getting shot in the eyes with bullets, and of course The Reveal of what exactly killed Wil Wheaton.
  • Fantastic Slurs: Returners are sometimes called "Deadies" as an insult.
  • Fate Worse than Death: After confirming that, yes, Ellard does have an anti-Returner plague, and yes, he has released it, John and Blakeney simply have the Returner security force seal him up inside the (airtight) Defcon bunker. Eventually, he'll die after running out of "food, water, or hope," and if/when he Returns, the virus will kill him again.
  • Interservice Rivalry: John, Blakeney, and Ellard are all working towards improving the Returners' quality-of-unlife, but they don't communicate between each other very much, and the tensions and rivalry between John and Blakeney stop them from being as effective as they could be. At least until it becomes clear that Ellard is actually planning to kill them all, and John and Blakeney bury the hatchet and get their act together.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Yes, John's daughter is justifiably traumatized by her father becoming an undead abomination. She's still a jerk. The child aptly dubbed Mean Fat Kid by the author is another example.
  • Mad Eye: A number of Returners have one eye that's permanently wide-open, with a pupil that's shrunk to a pinprick. The author calls it a "crazy eye".
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The "polite" term for the undead is "Returners," while the impolite version is "Deadies." Word of God states that the word "zombie" actually doesn't exist in this universe, but someone spread a rumor during the initial revival wave that they ate human brains, and references to old Romero films are still in.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Oprah Winfrey and Wil Wheaton are both characters in Dead Eyes Open. Wil's the dead one, and as it turns out, being the first "outed" Returner celebrity does wonders for one's career - and Returner rights! At the end of the book, it's mentioned he's running for Governor of California.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: On the covers, the only element of the series that's in colour, the Returners are depicted with red irises.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: John becomes the government spokesperson for the Returners (leading directly to him saving all of Returner-kind from the plague and providing them with a "promised land" in the Arctic Circle) chiefly by virtue of being a respectable academic and lucky enough to survive an attack from a government kill-team.
  • Scary Black Man: Harvey, as well as the undead gang who is first seen showing the effects of the undead on criminals.
  • They Would Cut You Up:
    • When John's daughter threatens to tell about him, he responds with this argument (and adds that they'd probably take her mother away as well, in order to twist the knife further). Yeah, John's a pretty bad parent.
    • Major Callahaghn says "They Would Cut You Up" to John, too... well, more like "blast you in the face."
    • Ironically, John publicly attempts to dispel rumors of returners being experimented on, which turn out to be true later on.
  • Took a Level in Badass: John does, eventually, by personally executing Taylor after chewing him out, and going on to prove his "ideals" wrong.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Major Callahaghn and Taylor (though Taylor's only pretending at the "well-intentioned" part — he just wants to get infamous by emulating Callahaghn's goals and riding off his fame, while invoking more infamy and attention by deliberately taking extremist points and gathering 'like-minded' extremists to do his dirty work). Also, Ellard. In his Motive Rant, he explains why he's developing a virus to kill all Returners: it's NOT natural. You're going to have deal with overcrowding and very hard to kill people causing trouble, and Ellard states that China is already using Returners as soldiers and fears that someone will start an eternal war.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: One of the central tensions of the series. Texas is trying to secede just because dead people were given rights.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • At the end, John turns down the opportunity to live in Alaska with the rest of the Returned, which would effectively allow him to exist forever, and elects instead to return home to spend the rest of his days with his family.
    • Oddly enough, this trope is played with in Ellard's motive to wipe out the Returners. People who don't die cause a LOT of unnatural problems, leading to more like a "who wants to have others live forever?"
  • Zombie Apocalypse: One of the few out there where the zombies are the ones being hunted. Ellard's ultimate plan is to invoke this trope as literally as possible, IE creating an apocalypse that wipes out the zombies themselves.