I think it’s every geek’s major goal: Get to San Diego Comic-Con one day. It is our haven, our one great pilgrimage, the Con of Cons. Sure, we can sit around and debate whether or not to mass media takeover of SDCC is good or bad, but let’s be fair: you want to go. Although to be perfectly honest, as much as I say I’d love to go—and I would!—I also acknowledge that a con of that size would cause me to freak out if I was stuck on the show floor. That many people in one room at the same time is just too much; I’ve had slight claustrophobia from being in a packed dealer’s room at my local anime convention. Now. Let’s add zombies to the mix. Real zombies, not just cosplayers. And think about what that would mean for SDCC.(Y’know I’m not one to look at calendar dates and worry about impending doom—I basically shut down every person who came up to me freaking out over the end of the world last December—but if it wasn’t for a few minor details, Newsflesh is scarily realistic. Sometimes I worry if I should get ready for next July.) In the Newsflesh universe, SDCC 2014 is mentioned as one of the catalyst events during the First Rising. In a convention hall where it’s expected that there would be a few hundred ‘undead’ shambling about, the idea that a freshly turned zombie could slip in virtually unnoticed is unnerving. And then you add in the confusion, the number of people present, the size of the hall…Yeah. Brr.I would argue that this is the one true traditional zombie story in the whole of Newsflesh. The trilogy proper isn’t so much about the zombies as it is the conspiracy; and Countdown is a prequel explaining “How we got here.” The Last Stand of the California Browncoats is the zombie apocalypse story. This is where we get to see the true horror when someone’s bitten and turned into a zombie. There’s this overwhelming sense of tension and dread that accompanies each scene, and the fact that we know going in only one person survived that Con makes it just worse. (ohgod the part where the Browncoats are walking through the darkened show floor and there’s zombies at one end and a wall of infected blood at the other auugh nope done nope nope thanks never going to a con again) And the reason that one person survived? It’s because she was being a teenager at that moment—she left the con to get away from her parents for a few hours. But even going in knowing that the vast majority of characters are doomed to die, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to care about them in the process. Even though it’s very clearly stated that Lorelei Tutt is the only survivor, I kept shouting “ONLY KNOWN SURVIVOR! SOMEBODY HAD TO MAKE IT OUT!” It’s becoming a running gag at this point for me but GODDAMNIT SEANAN MCGUIRE QUIT IT WITH THE EMOTIONAL SLEDGEHAMMER. My feelings can only take so much! I wanted Elle, Matt and Patty to be able to hold out in their makeshift shelter long enough for them to escape (and then Elle could disappear and live happily ever after with Sigird). I wanted Kelly Nakata to be…okay, Kelly Nakata is not just the unsung hero of SDCC 2014, she’s a fucking BAMF. AND THEN SHE GETS BITTEN. (I have to give this to McGuire: being One of Us, she manages to get across the geek mindset very well. Once everyone figures out “No, it’s actually zombies, for real, not joking” they’re extremely genre-savvy. Unfortunately they haven’t figured out what kind of zombies they’re dealing with yet.) The point is, you care about these characters. You want them to get out of the Convention Hall, even though it’s been repeatedly mentioned that nobody is going to survive this.For the people who complained that the Newsflesh trilogy didn’t contain enough zombies for their brain-nomming liking, I think that The Last Stand… is more than enough to satiate that hunger. As I said, this is the zombie story of the series—the one with the horror and gore and rising heroism. Unfortunately, this does not work as a standalone; you do need to have read Countdown (and by extension, at least Feed) to understand what’s going on outside of the con. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad story! I absolutely loved this, despite having my soul repeatedly crushed. It’s a great standalone story in the larger universe, that’s all—if you’re fixing for a Newsflesh story, this is the perfect thing for you. It’s creepy and fantastic, and despite setting up the unwinnable situation for everyone involved, McGuire definitely still packs an emotional punch. Definitely recommended.