Zombies. Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay. All we can hope for is original takes on the genre and thankfully, that’s exactly what The Final Plague is: an original take. Instead of humans being infected, it’s animals; but more so, it’s rats that are infected and craving human flesh. What’s terrific about this issue is that it knows that you know what is and what it’s going to do, but rather than just jump head first into the thick of things… it waits. More importantly, it makes you wait and that suspense is killer. The story begins in Iowa, in at a simple farm-house of the Michaels family. Sarah Michaels is trapped on a chair while an overly aggressive rat attempts to attack her. She calls for her mom who swoops in with a broom and cracks the rat with the handle; it does little more than phase the rat though. Sarah runs outside and as her mom slowly backs out of the house. She tells Sarah to grab a shovel so that they can kill the rat for good. With the shovel in hand the mom cuts the rat in half… but it continues to crawl for her until she smashes its head in. Meanwhile in a lab in New Jersey on the same day, two scientists using rats in their studies discover that a large percentage of the rats have blood in their eyes and the same aggressive nature towards humans.
This story literally strings you along the entire time and then hits you with the last panel. I was actually startled even though I knew it was fucking coming. Maybe it’s because I read it at night, alone in a poorly lit room or maybe the buildup was just that good. Seriously, this is a well-constructed psychological horror story. As scary as Zombies are, fucking zombie animals are scarier. Usually I’m not all, “kill those vermin” but the idea of a zombie rat and by extension the possibility of a zombie pigeon has me wishing for them to be added to the extinction list tomorrow. Sorry PETA, but you read this story and tell me that you don’t want a nail gun and a compressor by your bed.
The writing is phenomenal. Everything about the story is intentional. We all know what’s happening and what’s going to happen, but the story messes with you the entire issue. Sure the opening is intense and there are few other intense moments, but nothing really pops off. Instead it’s like watching someone put their hand in an alligator’s mouth; you’re heart creeps up your chest and hangs out in your throat just waiting for the alligator to snap down. Now imagine reading an entire issue like that. Trust me, if you don’t jump at the end then you didn’t allow yourself to become emerged within the story.
The art plays a huge role in setting the atmosphere and tone of the story. It would not be nearly as creepy or intense without the beautiful picturesque art that accompanies the writing. Aside from the rats, everything is very beautiful looking. The farm is scenic and familiar while the lab is cold and small. It’s the perfect contrasts between the two most familiar settings in all zombie stories; absolutely gorgeous artwork that perfectly complements the writing.
I’ll be perfectly honest; I don’t read zombie stories anymore. They bore me and the genre as a whole tries too hard to copy everything that has come before it. Ever since the world caught up with what horror buffs and geeks already knew, the zombie genre has been played out. This story though, is so damn good. It’s easy to say that it’s not just a zombie story since no zombie story is actually about the creature. We’ll see what this story is about, but right now it’s hitting on all of the major influences of the genre and still managing to tell its own unique tale and I love that. Pre-order this book right now or go to Action Lab’s Kickstarter page and support the release that way and be sure to pick it as one of your rewards because it’s that damn good.
Writer: Johnnie Arnold Artist: Tony Guaraldi-Brown Publisher: Action Lab Danger Zone Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/26/13