Old Country Zombies
When I was a teenager, I was a zombie person. When it came to the living dead, that was it. I didn’t care for vampires. I liked my undead, not suave, not human, but completely alien, completely unnatural. Diseased. Like vermin. TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and RETURN OF THE BLIND DEAD. SHOCK WAVES. ZOMBI 2. The inhuman. The flesh eater. But somewhere I lost the taste, or perhaps they lost the taste for me. Somewhere around Romero starting to allegorize with DAY OF THE DEAD, and the crystalizing with the goofy humanity of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 3 a few years later, it disappeared. I didn’t care for the allegory, or quite frankly the humanity. Sometimes a zombie is just a zombie. And a corpse is just a corpse. There is something about the monomaniacal, and baseness, of the zombie trope. It’s not blood. It’s not lust. It’s sustenance. Survival. In the strictest terms. In some regards, there has been a return to that, but the trend for hyper-motorized largely CGI zombie world (I’m looking at you WORLD WAR Z and the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD) leaves me cold.
Which is why Jeff McComsey’s comic book FUBAR series from Fubar Press is a breath of, well, stale air, in the zombie genre. MOTHER RUSSIA is the current book, with issue one hitting the stands next week on April Fool’s Day. McComsey has put together alternate worlds where zombies have taken over, blending history with horror seamlessly. MOTHER RUSSIA takes place in a timeline where the zombie infestation begins in 1942, and follows the day in, day out, life of Svetlana Gorshkov, once the most infamous of Soviet snipers, now sniping Soviet and Nazi zombies alike as she fashions an existence. Minimally dialogued, the first issue relies heavily on McComsey’s pencils to first set up her day to day life, and then to wreck it into pieces with the introduction of a child into the mix. A child lost amongst the zombies. The second part of the main story is an extended chase amongst the ruins, as a furtive Nazi and his German Shepherd join Gorshkov to form one of the more rag tag teams out there. McComsey has a very firm, sure grip on his storytelling. Just as no dialogue is wasted, so too no panels are wasted, creating first the mundane of her everyday life – the hair combing, the push-ups, the marks on the wall – everything predicated on marking time, and then the child – and everything changes. The zombies of the first few pages become more menacing, their winter caps and uniforms turning more menacing. The attention to period detail is quite amazing. And zombies in Stalingrad? Very nice.
The backup story with art by Steve Willhite fills in Gorshkov’s backstory is a more traditional World War II story of death and snipers that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Charlton’s FIGHTIN’ ARMY or DC’s G.I. COMBAT. The pencils only further that feeling, Willhite’s pencils striking slightly cartoonish, and yet brutally real, mixing a Joe Kubert war feel with a Richard Corben vibe. Indeed, even the main MOTHER RUSSIA storyline could have drifted out of a slightly more mature WEIRD WAR TALES. McComsey fills the book with a Silver Age 70s vibe, and yet a timelessness as well. And make no mistake, this is McComsey’s world. His zombies. His Russia. His world. I think here of the Steve Stiles backups in Mark Schultz’s XENOZOIC TALES, a piece of that same puzzle.
McComsey had mined this vein well. Last week, the latest FUBAR Kickstarter, BY THE SWORD just funded, spearheaded by McComsey, taking on the pre-modern world of Rome and Europe and all over, with zombies galore. It looks quite amazing. MOTHER RUSSIA was initially a Kickstarter project. He has been successfully mining his alternate worlds for several years now. And it’s a world I’d revisit. . It’s cold. It’s bleak. And it’s full of zombies, that’s all I need to know.
Check out McComsey’s websites at http://fubarpress.com/ and https://mccomseycomix.wordpress.com/ for further looks at the books and his incomparable art. Check out MOTHER RUSSIA #1. It’s horror done right.