Written by: Jonathan Maberry Art by: Tony Vargas Coloured by: Oliver Lee Arce Published by: IDW Publishing
Following a tame first outing, Jonathan Maberry’s Rot & Ruin comes back with a much more satisfying second issue. The tale follows 15 year old Benny Imura and pals as they quest for a mystery jet that they’d seen. Amidst the camaraderie as the quartet find themselves journeying through the land of Rot & Ruin, they have the occasional brush with cliches and the formulaic zombie concepts. However this time around, we get more to chew on from Maberry and Vargas. The book starts deliciously with Benny and friends stuck in an abandoned hospital having fled a pack of zombies. Within the walls there is more horror waiting for them. Add to the oft ‘trapped with zombies’ concept, there is relief in how the plot further develops. We also have a situation where the dynamics of the group are explored, somewhat violently, but ultimately in an effective manner. Having read the first installment I was concerned that this was going to be a ‘zombies by numbers story, and, that was seemingly the extent of the book. Though, having seen how Jonathan has expanded upon the early premise and layered in an almost subtle hint at a rather topical piece of social commentary (which should evolve fully inside the next issue).
Add to this hint, we have the high tempo second half of the book. We have the emergence of ‘Farmer John’ – and his acolytes. This is an openly charming type of guy but it is plainly evident that Benny has left one frying pan for an even bigger fire. This is good, it adds to the character depth in the story and the jinking pace and development adds to the interest.
As the story itself has come on from the first issue, the art is similarly improved upon. The opening scenes were great, the horror was well wrought, and how the story developed, with the varying scenes and characters was all entertainingly done. If Vargas continues in this vein the book will be very pleasing on the eye. Yes, the characters, despite existing in the post-apocalypse, are a little too clean, a little too manicured, but you can’t really quibble too much as in any zombie tv show or movie, you get the same treatment. In the world of rotting flesh and ruination, we, the viewer, don’t like our grotesque survivors to be too gnarly.