"Junior Braves of the Apocalypse #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Oni Press
Written by Greg Smith and Michael Tanner
Illustrated by Zach Lehner
2015, 34 Pages, $1.99
Comic released on May 6th, 2015
I was never in the Boy Scouts. Maybe that's why I hate the very idea of camping. Just about every horror movie set in the woods has helped solidify that hatred because clearly nothing good ever comes from going out into the wilderness. Despite the wonders of modern technology and the countless crazed slashers lurking between the trees, people still go out there all the time. Such is the case in Junior Braves of the Apocalypse. These kids go out on a nature trip to get a few merit badges, but they come back needing an entirely new set of skills. Sure, being able to start a fire and sew a patch will be helpful, however they're going to need their zombie survival merit badges to get through this.
The bulk of this first issue of Junior Braves of the Apocalypse is spent getting to know this troop. There's a basic variety of kids involved. You've got a mama's boy, a loner from a broken home, and the jerk, among others. They spend a weekend roughing it under the stars and having what looks like a fun time. This is about 85-90% of the issue. It isn't until the last few pages where things get crazy. The boys and their two adult supervisors arrive back home to find the town deserted. Then the zombies show up and things escalate quickly. This abrupt change comes as a bit of a shock since you spent so much time getting to know these kids, so to see them suddenly face tragedy is alarming.
The adults in the troop present an interesting dynamic. On one end there's the college-age Buddy, who is still a kid at heart. On the other is “Padre”, who's a rough older man looking to whip these kids into shape. He may not be your favorite supervisor, but he's definitely the kind of guy you want by your side during the zombie apocalypse. I think there's more to him than what has been revealed so far. He seems to know more about this situation then he lets on. He's certainly very prepared for it.
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Junior Braves is an all-ages title, so even though the undead are walking the streets, it's something that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. There's a comforting quality that comes through in Zach Lehner's artwork. It's not quite cartoonish, but it does come through with a very fun look. It's not a doom-and-gloom story, especially early on as the kids are just kicking back in the wilderness. There's a page towards the end of the trip where the troop paints their faces like Native Americans, searching their hearts for what they want to appear on their faces. The results are comical, ranging from the innocent with flowers to one kid in KISS makeup. Then there's the one guy who's actually Native American sulking to the side, not enjoying this at all.
We don't see much of the zombies in this first issue. Mostly it's just arms popping out of windows or the sounds of groans coming from every direction. These brief glimpses give Junior Braves the slight horror bend and put a bit of a fright into the mix. The last few pages are filled with excitement and terror. You've spent so much time with these kids and all of a sudden they're fighting the undead. Despite the fact that they just got back from a camping trip designed to turn them into men, they're not prepared for this at all.
Junior Braves of the Apocalypse starts off a little slow, taking its time to get to the zombie action. It's worth the wait because the story packs more of an emotional punch by the end. It also reinforces my chronic fear of nature. Oni Press is releasing each chapter of this six-issue mini-series weekly via ComiXology before collecting it in print form, so you don't have to wait long until you find out what these kids are up against and how they get out of this mess.