Of the three main characters in Shaenon K. Garrity and Jeffrey C. Wells’ mad science webcomic Skin Horse, I must admit I find the young zombie girl Unity to be the most intriguing of the three. Mind you, there’s plenty of hints that there’s a lot more to Tip’s story than we’ve seen to date (not so sure about Sweetheart’s story, mind you), but let’s be honest here; Unity stole the gold when it came to interesting characters in the comic. Part of this lies with the subtle nuances to her character, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect given she plays the same part Mel possessed in Garrity’s previous mad science comic, Narbonic, (to wit, random agent of destruction and chaos), along with the blissful innocence that you’d not expect a brain-eating zombie to possess.
These latest comics have brought out that hidden side of Unity that we briefly glimpsed when she possessed the body of her creator, Dr. Lee, and showed a talent for intelligence that was frankly unexpected by me. Still, when you look at the older SH comics, you can see glimpses that there’s more to Unity than wanton destruction and comic relief. As to where Garrity and Wells came up with the idea that zombies become brighter when they eat brains, I’m not sure (I think Simpsons did it in a Halloween episode, but it doesn’t seem to be a trope from the zombie movies as far as I’m aware), but it does provide them with a tool to ramp up Unity’s intelligence while dealing with the pareidolia-wielding scientist currently talking to Unity (and Sweetheart for that matter).
Though I must admit, there are shades of “Flowers for Algernon” with this latest update, as Unity realizes her improved intellect will fade (and indeed starts to fade even as she speaks). Much as she mentioned earlier when talking to the other zombies, she appears to be of two minds. One is this intelligent Unity that lurks under the surface, while carefree and destructive Unity wanders around most of the time. Interestingly, Unity still manages to maintain a façade of innocence even when intelligent. Even her “ominous” words to the zombies are ultimately meant for the best, rather than as some threat. It may be this quality of Unity that makes her so much fun to watch. Even when she causes mayhem, there is no sense of maliciousness to her. Given the scope of the Skin Horse organization, she may ultimately embody the purpose of the organization, to aid and assist nonhuman sapients in the Narbonic universe.