"Pestilence #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by AfterShock Comics
Written by Frank Tieri
Illustrated by Oleg Okunev
Colored by Rob Schwager
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on June 7th, 2017
When called upon to return to the Vatican to help combat a fierce plague, Roderick Helms and the Fiat Lux spring into action. This isn't your average disease though. This is what history would come to know as the Black Death...only it's really a zombie uprising. Now they must fight through hordes of the undead to accomplish their mission and they're only just getting started.
Pestilence reads like all the best action scenes of your favorite zombie movies. It moves at a frenetic pace, barely giving you a chance to catch your breath before diving into another fight for life and death. Artist Oleg Okunev makes this action shine...or should I say shimmer? What does blood do? In any case, this is some beautifully choreographed segments with absolutely insane amounts of gore. Heads are sliced in half. Jaws are ripped off.
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There are two sections towards the middle of the book that really underline the suffocating nature of the force Fiat Lux is up against. The first is when they arrive by boat to Vatican City. This is a two-page spread with the boat and the city on the top half and a glimpse under the water on the bottom. The sea is chock full of zombies at different stages of decomposition. It's a very ominous shot, especially with a small image in the top right showing the men literally rowing through bodies to get to land. Forget the phase “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” This is on a whole new level.
The second stand out is directly after this. Fiat Lux has landed only to be nearly overrun by the undead. It's a literal mountain of zombies all clawing up at them. The flow never stops. For every one that's knocked down, two more take their place. It's terrifying to imagine what that must feel like. Remember, all these men are armed with are swords and daggers. They don't have guns. They have to hack and slash their way through hundreds of bodies to get to their destination. No two zombies are alike in Pestilence. Okunev keeps the undead exciting and interesting. I'm sure there are some Easter eggs in there too. I spotted the Grim Reaper at one point.
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Rob Schwager's colors give Pestilence an ominous tone. The men arrive at night, so there are shadows abound, however when the battle begins, the sky turns blood red, adding intensity to the action. The zombies' skin is pale and dead, like an image left out in the sun. This is what death looks like.
There's not much in the way of character development, however it's not all that necessary. You have all you need to know about the men of Fiat Lux, the assassin's arm of the Church. They have a sworn duty and this is the latest mission they've been assigned. Their numbers are already dwindling and I'm sure more of them will begin to fall as the odds stack against them. The creators keep the interest and excitement up with a compelling narrative and unbelievable action.
It would be easy to call Pestilence “The Walking Dead in the Dark Ages” but that would be doing the book a disservice. It's taking the traditional zombie tropes and putting a unique spin on them, amplifying the energy and making the undead a real and terrifying force to be reckoned with. This comic is reframing a dark time in history into a zombie uprising and it's pretty friggin' cool.