Rebel Blood #1
There is surely some irony in the way that Zombies have infected every contemporary medium of entertainment; their numbers multiplying exponentially, with every success spawning multiple new efforts so that now simply skimming the list of titles has become something of a muddy slog. Though they may not be literally walking the earth just yet: through television screens, movie theaters and of course comic books the undead are still traversing it, an all covering contagion akin to that they play inside the stories. So chances are that you have probably heard a zombie story before, in fact it would be exceptional if you had only ever experienced the one, so the only reason you would ever start to read a new one is if it did something truly different: The Walking Dead takes the traditional story, stretches it out to its most extreme length and then keeps on going, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes an existing story and merges it into the genre as if infected itself while the likes of Shaun and Zombieland make light of our loving relationship with the liches. Now though all of these novelty approaches have basically been exhausted, so where then is there left for the genre to go? What angle can a new series take that hasn’t already been tread? In the case of this comic, Rebel Blood, though it is still a little too early to tell its overall approach, for this first issue at least it keeps the tropes fresh by simply telling the traditional story…then telling it again, and again, and again almost ad infinitum.
Issue one contains all of the core tropes one would expect from an introduction to a zombie apocalypse, even though many of them are contradictory. It centers on a disgraced firefighter who runs what he describes as an inland lighthouse, a ranger station out in an uninhibited part of the wintery American woods. One day while he is out there in the middle of nowhere he hears of strange events taking place in the city, of animals attacking people and then people attacking people. He becomes alarmed and rushes back home to save his somewhat estranged family. He then rushes home only to find that he is too late to save his wife, though he is able to kill the beast that bit her and get his kid out of there, hooking up with the cute conservationist that’s visited his cabin recently. Then he bursts in the front door to find that the two kids were turned before he got there, and his wife who had somehow managed to escape dies, dragging out her departure in his arms. Then he kicks in the door and watches as the wretch rends her near in two, later moving masses with the music he wrote about the incident. Ultimately though he does none of these things, in fact he does nothing at all. The truth is that they were all already gone, he had lost everything long before the beasts came.
For you see, working in the tower has made Chuck a very solitary man and so to pass the time he tells himself stories, fantasizing parallel paths to his own, and when your world is one of the undead then your imaginings will mirror that theme. If you think that these thoughts are a little twisted then you’re not alone; Chuck is not an entirely charming lead. There is a line that exhoes through his head inside and alongside these imaginings as he tries to adjust to this new world order, “Don’t be a hero,” and thankfully that is an order he doesn’t have to try to hard to obey. The worst has already happened to this man and it seems like it may mostly have been his own fault. Though a lot of these tales tend to end up with corrupted central characters none come to mind that start with with a man already so mangled, following the life of a man who has nothing left to lose, one who’s personal apocalypse occurred long before the first bite. Every narrative features a witty line or catchphrase that he concocts not so much on the fly, the kind of line that would make you groan at the writing were it not Chuck, the character himself who had written it. In his mind this is all a joke and although it’s not initially obvious the majority of the book does take place in this man’s mind.
There are none of the obvious tells in play distinguishing the past from the present or reality from the unreal and merging this plethora of perspectives into one makes the book a difficult but utterly distinct read; it’s the kind of book that could only come from an auteur, someone who writes and draws every panel because a second voice would dilute that singular quality both for the better and the worse. Riley Rossmo, has already distinguished himself as an artist in a number of great books, the great Green Wake among them, but this is his first time scripting and you can tell. I obviously don’t care for the main character and we don’t get to know any others, the gore is without a doubt gratuitous (a nasty negative in my mind) and thanks to Rossmo’s rookie status there is a roughness to the narrative that holds it back technically, but there is something special at the core of this comic that still spoke to me despite its flaws, perhaps it is my own obsession with stories and internalizing. In short it’s not just an interesting take on zombies, its like no other zombie comic or comic of any kind that I have ever read and these days that’s saying something, so i’m keen to see where it heads next.