In the zombie wars of comics, and even movies, “Rotten” keeps rising to the top. This comic book, published by Moonstone Books, written by Mark Rahner (creator) and Robert Horton and illustrated by Dan Dougherty, is most assuredly a cult hit you need to be reading.
Issue 7 brings us a whole new story with what feels like a renewed energy for an already excellent comic. All you really need to know is that secret agents J.J. Flynn and William Wade are on a mission for Pres. Hayes, circa 1877, and are up to their necks in zombies. For Flynn, it is all research at the University of Chicago. For Wade, he’s face to face with the ghouls in the Pacific Northwest territory.
Cinematic. Smooth. Sexy. Horor done right. All this applies to “Rotten.”
“Revival of the Fittest,” the new arc, comes out of the gate kicking zombie ass: Wade, outfitted with zombie resistant leather and brass knuckles with spears, shoots down his first zombie just as he rides in on a horse into northwestern territory. Try as he might, he finds himself only a few steps ahead and not really getting a better understanding of the undead outside of refining the way he thrashes them. He seems to destroy them most of the time. There’s no way to know for sure. It’s not an exact science, as far as he knows. However, if there is a science to zombies, agent Flynn, back at the University of Chicago, does his best to uncover it with the help of Professor Chandler.
Dan Dougherty’s artwork, already impressive, seems even smoother with this story. I’ve always admired Dougherty’s angular lines. There is a distinctive precision to what he does. This far into the comic, you expect some tweaks. I think Rahner and Horton are digging deeper into the feelings of their main characters, Wade and Flynn, and Dougherty is portraying that feeling. It looks like very crisp pencil work. And he is opening up the space more to allow the characters to breathe. I always thought that “Rotten” could benefit from more of a human touch to balance out the zombies. So, it is good that Flynn gets laid, and by a vibrant pretty woman, without a hint of the undead funk.
The style of “Rotten” is coming more into its own too. It has always been a superior comic to a lot of what is out there. Sharp observers are already hip to that and I count myself among them! I’m just saying that what works for “Rotten” appears to be working even better, like its overall look. By now, regular readers are accustomed to the biting social commentary of “Rotten.” Politics can be a very prickly subject that this comic has not shied away from and I think that is evolving in a smoother fashion. It is not necessarily tilted in one direction or another. In the spirit of George Romero, it just is. Whatever your politics, having Charles Darwin within reach to discuss the potential evolution of the undead is hilarious and a stroke of genius.
And then there’s the cliff hanger ending to this issue which may linger for awhile. Flynn may or may not have been ground up into sausage! All signs point to it being the end of agent J.J. Flynn but, like any good cliff hanger, it really leaves you wondering. What this latest issue does it make us care even more about our main characters. Agent Wade, for his part, is feeling the wrath of a bunch of very freaked out zombies. He is looking fierce, determined and dangerous, to zombies. We can only hope some of the same for Flynn. This issue is clearly another “Rotten” success.
Bonus track: There was a contest recently inviting fans of this comic to win a chance at appearing in Issue 9. It was put on in connection with a very cool group of zombie and horror fans who happen to run ZomBcon. If you are in Seattle, you should definitely check out this convention devoted to all things zombie. It is October 29, 30 and 31 at Seattle Center.