In Review: Pestilence #2

I've never read a zombie book like this before and I'm in awe!

The covers: Two covers to quest for, with both being done by Tim Bradstreet. The Regular cover is an assemblage of images that includes, from the top down, a huge image of a bearded man, a zombie crusader, four men with bows about to fire upon that crusader, and to the left is a knight looking forward vacantly. The cover is tinted brown, which ages it and makes it seem appropriately dirty for the time, but the zombie in the center has just a smattering of pale crimson on him, hinting at his deviltry. The Variant cover features a close-up of a helmeted man, much as the first cover had, though more of this fighter is seen, as the left side of his helmet has broken open, exposing more of the eye and flesh. The orb is a milky blue, while the skin is a sickly pale flesh, revealing this man to be a zombie. Great cover and neat to look at side by side with Issue #1. Covers: Regular B+ and Variant A

The story: Frank Tieri, from a story conceived by him, Eric Bromberg, and Brandon Auman, writes a horrific tale of men who are unaware of what’s happening around them during this “Black Death.” The first page nicely summarizes what happened in the previous issue and shows who the main players are in the cast. Day 1 of their trek to return to the Vatican doesn’t go easily as one of their members, James Howard, was bitten last issue and is feeling unwell. The knights make it to a ship by the second day, but Howard is getting worse, even under the care of William, who can find no cure to remedy the man. On Day 3 Howard dies. As Roderick Helms states in his journal, “We have lost men of Fiat Lux before but never like this.” The men strike a toast to their departed friend, but notice his bed is now empty. Howard stands before the men, his body contorted and his face open in a snarl. “James had become something else.” He is beaten down, with his jaw being dislocated, and is chained in a room where he continually pounds his head against the wall. William tells Roderick what he believes has happened with James and it brings the leader no comfort. Compounding things is that his men are having a difference of opinion of what should be done with reborn friend. These concerns are put aside when they arrive at the promised land, but things become problematic before they can even make land. Pages 14 – 18 has some astounding action sequences, with the heroes getting where they needed to go, but discovering that their task is going to take considerable effort. This was an epic tale of duty and survival. Oh, yeah — I’m in this for the full duration. Overall grade: A+

The art: The artwork by Oleg Okunev is nothing short of phenomenal. The first panel starts the issue somberly with the knights riding in the rain, with James hunched over on his horse. Roderick’s glance to his man is wonderfully telling. The start of the second day features a terrific panel of the men in a rowboat, overcoming a wave, to go to a distant ship — it’s beautiful. The full paged splash on 5 shows James as a zombie and it’s grotesque, with his posture similar to Bernie Wrightson’s creations. The battle that follows is only a page long, but it’s intense, with the bottom panel creating as much awe as the action that precedes it. Page 7 is a perfect match for the stories that accompany it and could be a series on their own. Pages 11 and 12 are a double-paged spread of the ship’s entrance to the city, but there are some unexpected things in the water. Every one of the characters in the water looks amazing, but one shouldn’t miss the details done in the setting and the characters on the shore. 14 is another full-paged splash and it’s astonishing with its detail and the number of characters on the page. It’s a definite WOW! page. The journey to sanctuary is also amazing, with the details in the dead and the knights something that could be poured over and still something is missed. The individual revealed on the final two pages is wonderfully designed and the emotion that pours out of him from the visuals rends the dialogue he spews as unnecessary, though it does make the character more frantic. Simply stunning. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Rob Schwager uses colors expertly on every page to enhance the tone and visuals. I love the subtle streaks of gray and white in the deluge the men are traveling through on the opening pages. The light inside the ship turns everything orange, reminding one that the illumination comes from candlelight. James’s new persona on Page 4 uses the light source to make his flesh orange, yet those parts of him not exposed to the light look mottled green. Also fantastic on this page are the men’s drinks in the foreground contain red liquid; an ironic color for what’s about to occur. Page 7 is gorgeous in tan, as the visuals shown are from an ancient tome. The blues and greens on 11 and 12 are fantastic. When the attack begins on 14 the background goes a shocking shade of crimson that, appropriately, resembles blood. An insane shade of putrid orange is used for the zombies in the third panel on 15 looks great, and it reappears as a background color on 16. The final two pages end with normal colors, only because the men are in a safe structure. I have a feeling this won’t last at the start of Issue #3. Schwager is doing an excellent job on this book. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The opening summary, Helms’s journal entries, sounds, dialogue, yells, and the tease for next issue are brought to life by Marshall Dillon. His script font for Helms’s journal is outstanding, as is the opening summary. I’ve seen Dillon on many books, but I’ve never seen him do dialogue that looks like this. It’s a rough looking font, but perfectly suits the people of this time, making them seem rough. The sounds he creates are also excellent, with CHUNCH, SLURP, and GURGLE resonating through my mind several hours after I’ve read this book. Overall grade: A+

The final line: I’ve never read a zombie book like this before and I’m in awe! I’m in for the run of this series until I die, and then I’ll probably continue to purchase it as one of the undead. The story is thrilling and the visuals sumptuous. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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