"Rot & Ruin #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by IDW Publishing
Written by Jonathan Maberry
Illustrated by Tony Vargas
2014, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on September 10th, 2014
Zombies! Zombies! Everywhere! There are a whole mess of stories available about what happens when the dead first rise, but there's not nearly as many as to what happens long after they've been walking the earth. Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin picks up fifteen years after the zombie apocalypse. The human race has been decimated. There are only about thirty thousand people left. The rest of the population has been infected. If you die for any reason, you come back as a walker.
The book centers on a group of young adults in Central California. They've learned to survive amidst nine fenced-in towns in the area along with the rest of the uninfected. Everything changed when they saw a plane. Now Benny Imura; his girlfriend Nix Riley; his friend Lou Chong; and Lilah have their first shred of hope in years, but they have to find out where the plane landed first.
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The idea that there are other people out there works great within the story and it makes total sense. Communication and technology tend to break down when people start coming back from the dead. There could be other pockets of civilization out there that this small group in California is unaware of. At first I thought it would be like 28 Days Later, but in this case North America was quarantined from the rest of the world instead of England. Then I remembered that anyone that dies is turned into a zombie, so that idea went out the window. There could be groups that are more diligent about handling their dead, disposing of them right away and whatnot.
Rot & Ruin begins with a hefty dose of exposition, but it never feels boring or dry. Maberry pulls at the heartstrings, showing how Benny survived "First Night" when the zombies first started rising. There's a wave of emotion as Benny recounts the tale of how he was rescued and protected when he was only a baby by his older brother, Tom. The poor kid watched his parents tear literally tear each other apart.
Artist Tony Vargas adds a nice touch to these flashback pages. Each one is crossed with the blade of the samurai sword that Benny carries with him. It begins on one side of the page, showing an infant Benny in its reflection, then moves farther and farther to the left as the comic goes on. With each turn of the page, the sword is soaked in more and more blood, cutting its way through zombies and Benny's past. It's a very cool effect and a great way to open the book.
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This is just the beginning of the gore that Vargas brings to Rot & Ruin. There are zombies all over the place and they're all hungry for human flesh. When Benny and his friends stumble upon a horde of them in the woods, the undead look up like it's their collective birthday. The kids jump into action with their swords, hacking and slashing their way through bodies, beginning with an impressive double-page spread with limbs and heads flying.
The design for the humans makes them look like any average American teenager. They could live next door to you. This makes them instantly relatable. You immediately have a vested interest in their lives and want to see them get through this OK.
The idea that a handful of teenagers would leave the relative safety of a gated community during the zombie apocalypse to look for a plane that they saw in the sky one day can be a bit of a stretch. I mean, they know the basic direction it was heading, but have no idea where it landed. That almost doesn't matter as Maberry pulls you in right away. The zombies have already won. These characters are just looking for some semblance of hope which is almost a foreign concept to them after everything they've been through.