Rot and Ruin #1 Review

Written by: Jonthan Maberry

Art by: Tony Vargas

Publisher: IDW

No wait, Stop! Look I know what you’re thinking; zombies are overdone, we’ve seen so many zombie comics at this stage it feels like there’s an actual epidemic that has leapt from fiction right onto our comics stands. If you let this book pass you by however you’ll be missing out on a great comic that features some great characters and showcases a lot of potential in the first issue.

The new IDW zombie series “Rot and Ruin” is both an adaptation and continuation of writer Johnathan Maberry’s series of novels, set fifteen years after a zombie outbreak has left the human population outnumbered seven billion to thirty thousand. Maberry describes the series as being less about a zombie outbreak and more about young people growing up in a harsh world and having to make tough decisions.

I was really surprised by this comic, the opening few pages felt like a very generic zombie story showcasing the typical outbreak tropes; we see a family torn apart by the infection, leading then to it spreading to a full town before seeing society bomb itself into ruin. It felt like the sort of story we’ve seen a million times before and I was worried that this new series wouldn’t do much to differentiate itself. Luckily I was wrong, and once the initial introduction is out of the way Maberry manages to focus on the real heart of his story; the characters. Many writers often seem to struggle writing teenagers, often making them obnoxious or insufferable but it’s here were Maberry really excels. Our main character Benny has grown up in a world populated by zombies and has been hunting them for a year so seems to know what he’s doing, he’s never portrayed as being over confident though and still feels vulnerable enough due to his age that we worry for his safety. The rest of his group also manage to feel like real characters despite the little page time they receive; each of them have their own unique relationships with each other and no character seems to fit into a given stereotype such as “the funny one” of “the straight man” which seem to plague other stories involving teens.

Equally impressive is the art from Tony Vargas which manages to carry with it a hauntingly beautiful quality. Vargas portrays the world of this apocalypse as one overtaken by nature with overgrown forests spreading into the humans’ world and animals roaming the scenery. The way Vargas depicts the zombies also feeds back into Maberry’s ideas of using them as background to the main story, we see nature begin to claim the zombies as weeds grow around their ankles. It’s yet another subtle reminder that they are just part of this world and not the main focus. As well as the quieter and more serene moments Vargas manages to depict the zombie action of the latter half of the book with a real sense of energy and horror that makes the scene feel exciting and tense as we worry about the characters we’ve grown to care for. The final scenes also allow Vargas to end on a very chilling note with a pretty creepy cliff-hanger that has assured I’ll be back for a second issue.

Overall I would definitely give this a recommendation; while I am aware of the overexposure of zombies across multiple mediums Maberry and Vargas have started strong and given us a story with some great art and characters worth caring about. Whether or not you’ve read Maberry’s previous novels this is definitely a series worth checking out which I’ll definitely be returning to next month.