Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Longbox Junk - Mother Russia

Except for the Walking Dead, I'm not really a fan of black and white comics at all.  But when I saw these three new issues sitting on the shelf of my local comic shop for the measly cost of $1.50 each, I HAD to get them.  $4.50 total for 3 new comics? Hell, son. . .the first issue of Doomsday Clock on the shelf at the same time cost me $4.99 by ITSELF!

So I bought these comics based on the cover price and not knowing a thing about what was inside.  Did I get my $4.50 worth? Read on!

MOTHER RUSSIA

ALTERNA COMICS (2017)
SCRIPT, ART, AND COVERS BY JEFF McCOMSEY

ISSUE ONE: NO BETTER FRIEND

The zombie apocalypse occurs during WWII in 1943 is the basic premise here.  A lonely Russian sniper (named Svetlana) holed up in a fortified bell tower's routine is interrupted by the sight of a baby among the walking dead below.  She leaves her safe place and manages to rescue the baby, but is prevented from returning.  They are saved by another human survivor, but he is revealed to be a Nazi officer. 

At this point, I'm thinking that Nazis and Zombies are about two of the most overused villains in ANY medium. . .but surprisingly, there's a lot to like about this comic.

First off, the setting of Stalingrad is a great idea.  Hell on earth made even more hellish.  Second, the art is fantastic.  It's in black and white, but very well done and it doesn't shy away from the gore.  Third, the story moves at a frantic pace due to the sparse dialogue and a "Show, don't tell" storytelling method.

But there's some bad as well. . .the art falters toward the back half of the issue, with a few pages being blurry (probably a reproduction or printing error. . .but still) and some panels looking sketchy and unfinished.  Also, the frantic pace of the book makes it an EXTREMELY quick read.  It literally only took me five minutes to read this comic.  In other words, it's very light on actual story.

All in all, this was a good comic.  There were a few issues, but if you're looking for fast-paced zombie action with an unusual setting and great art at a very nice price, you can't do much better than this.

ISSUE TWO: NO WORSE ENEMY

Svetlana's savior introduces himself as Major Otto Steiner and, after making their way to his safe house, tells her what he knows about the zombie apocalypse. . .which isn't much.  They agree on a plan to put aside their differences and try to make it back to her bell tower, which is a better position with enough food and ammunition to last until winter. . .

This issue slows down the extremely brisk pace of the story for a bit more storytelling about the onset of the zombie apocalypse.  It's still a pretty quick read, but I liked this issue more than the first.  Steiner's description of the collapse of his brigade, combined with the great artwork of the Nazi unit being decimated by the undead is fantastic.

But once again, it's not all good.  The baby is more of a plot device than an actual person , and despite the art being generally great, there are places where it looks rushed and unfinished just like in the first issue.  

Overall, there were a few flaws but I found this issue superior to the first.  As I read it, I was thinking that this story would make a great movie.  The writing and art are both very cinematic in nature.

And finally. . .

ISSUE THREE: BALLROOM BLITZKREIG

During a desperate rush for Svetlana's sniper nest, Major Steiner sacrifices himself so that Svetlana, the baby, and Steiner's beloved dog can live. . .

This final issue was pretty much one long running battle as Svetlana and Steiner push their way through a zombie horde blocking their way back to Svetlana's fortified bell tower.  The art is utterly brilliant and carries most of the weight of the issue as there is very little dialogue.  It's an extra-sized issue, but I could hardly tell because of the extremely fast pace.

Steiner's explosive sacrifice at the end was a bit predicable and the "after credits" epilogue (that looks like it's setting up future stories in the same setting with different characters) seems unnecessary for the story at hand, but those were really the only small things I could find wrong with this issue.  All in all a great ending.

CONCLUSION
I'd definitely say I got my money's worth on this three issue mini.  I've never heard of Jeff McComsey before, but this series was pretty much a one-man show, with him wearing ALL the hats.  His art was cartoony, but detailed at the same time, and a great fit for the story.  The overall impression I got from this series is that the art and the storytelling are both very cinematic and that this story could easily be translated to the screen.  There's an economy of dialogue and a fluid motion to the art that makes me want to keep an eye out for more of McComsey's work.

But be warned. . .that same economy of dialogue and cinematic artwork leads to an EXTREMELY fast reading experience.  It literally only took me 20 minutes to read all three issues. . .and I mean literally in the literal sense.   It only took me 20 minutes to read this series.   Also, there's no character development to speak of and the generally fantastic art does occasionally fail, looking sketchy and unfinished in several places.  

Despite a few small flaws, I'd say overall that Mother Russia is a VERY nice little piece of Longbox Junk and I highly suggest it if you like Nazis, Zombies, or Nazi Zombies.  And really. . .who DOESN'T like Nazi Zombies?

Up Next. . .

How about we tip a sacred cow here at Longbox Junk? 

Batman: A Death In The Family - A.K.A. "The one where Robin gets killed by Joker"

Yeah, yeah. . .I know.  It's 4 issues in the middle of an ongoing run, but at this point it's pretty much considered as a story on its own when anybody talks about it.

Classic or Crap?  Be there or be square!