By Kelly Gaines
Run for Your Lives #1 is the book either based on or inspired by the popular 'Run for Your Lives 5K' that so many of my college acquaintances claimed to train for but never went to. The goal of a ‘Run for Your Life’ isn’t placing, nor is it the sweet satisfaction of reaching a personal goal. These runners run for their survival, a survival that is only ensured if they make it to the finish line. It’s the Hunger Games of the zombie apocalypse, with an American Ninja Warrior twist. Enough references? Apparently not. The issue is a vague and uninspired backstory that starts the series off completely on the wrong foot. Pun only partially intended.
What I mean by vague backstory is that our narrator, who we see at the beginning of the issue but are not introduced to, lists a bunch of referential theories for how the zombie apocalypse started. Do you remember the 1992 horror movie Dead-Alive? Well, this guy does. From mutated monkey bites, to miracle drug gone wrong, to god’s revenge, to the plague- We’re given a list of just about every zombie apocalypse backstory in pop culture. And the narrator never decides on one! This list takes up a majority of the issue before fading into an explanation of what the narrator is doing. In this apocalyptic “safe zone”, overcrowding is prevented by subjecting new arrivals to an obstacle course style race filled with zombies. The winners can rest their heads knowing they’ve got a safe place to live where the other residents are only a little okay with watching people die for sport. The losers get eaten. The narrator is at the starting line of his race, which is where the issue begins and ends.
So what does Run for Your Lives #1 give us? We have a group of possible backstories, all of which are taken straight off the shelf and none of which are confirmed. We have a narrator, who tells us all of this while waiting to begin the race. What does Run for Your Lives #1 not give us? Anything fucking else. We have no character names, no character history, no actual idea of the location, and no idea of what set off the zombie apocalypse in this reality. As a short, painless, promotional piece for a 5K, this book is fine. As a stand-alone comic book, it lacks the most basic storytelling attributes. The writing wasn’t clunky or poorly edited, but a good comic book needs to grab something in the reader to make issues sell. That’s the conundrum of an indie #1. Big publisher books have the financial backing for leeway, you can drag out introductions to characters without having to worry the first issue will be the last. For indie books, you need to connect with the reader immediately. Run for Your Lives makes this impossible by giving us nothing to come back for. I don’t care about the narrator. He’s as random as the other characters in the panel. We don’t know his name, how he got there, where he came from, or what he wants (apart from not being eaten). Giving readers a generic mixed bag of a world and a relatively simple premise only works if we’re rooting for someone. I don’t care who wins, so I’m not invested in the next part of the race.
Zombie apocalypse stories are THE thing, and quickly becoming overplayed and repetitive. Run for Your Lives may not be the last straw for the genre, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s not a title I see myself looking any further into. Is the title redeemable? Maybe, but I wouldn’t bother.
Run for Your Lives #1