Off the Shelf — Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart

Rot and Ruin warrior

Nutshell: Maberry takes his Rot & Ruin novel series and spins ’em off into a highly entertaining graphic novel.  Gorgeous art by Tony Vargas and Alex Ronald, well developed characters and themes worth mulling over after the last page is turned.  Will give The Walking Dead a run for it’s money.  Grade: A-

Story: Tom and his young brother escape their home as the zombie apocalypse began. Now, more than 15 years later, Tom is gone, but his brother Benny — now a teenager himself — struggles to survive and thrive in a world where zombies outnumber living humans millions to one.  But Benny and his friends (GF Nix, BFF Chong, straight-up survivor Lilah) have seen an airplane in the sky…

Thoughts: Been a fan of Maberry from awhile back.  Patient Zero is excellent, and I’ve been meaning to dig into his Rot & Ruin series.  But now it’s spun off into comic book form, hurrah!  I am not lazy.  I swear.  Warrior Smart is definitely a prize for any procrastinator, or any fan of zombie or horror fiction.  The art — panels literally cut through by the reflection of survivors and zombies on the blade of a samurai sword.  Nice. So are the newfangled bits of zombie lore Maberry creates, like “Cadaverine” to mask the scent of life, and  “quieting” zombies rather than “killing” them.  Don’t worry though, there’s still plenty of the usual zombie mythology to keep you up to speed.  Get bit?  Buh-bye.  Get loud?  Might as well ring the dinner bell.

It’s also fun to see teenagers — who did the bulk of their growing up after the zompocalypse — act like teenagers.  They bicker, fight, bitch about what they don’t have.  It’s a refreshing change from all the characters that are suddenly Cool Hand Luke when the sheisse goes down.

Maberry’s expositionary dialogue gets you hip to the storyline fast.  Just enough dramatic irony to keep things tense without overkill.  And most importantly, there’s no black and white; all characters, all decisions, all situations, are all shades of the grey each character can live with.  That puts a human touch on these 2D characters, and coupled with  killer (heh) art by Tony Vargas and Alex Ronald, it makes for a compelling series.  Readers who are new to this series can easily jump in, though I’m betting you’ll want to sniff out the earlier Rot & Ruin series of novels.

And I’ma say it; I love that the lead in this series is Hapa.  Makes me feel all the things.  Better than having Mr. T and Tina as my touchstone (not to hate, y’all.  Pat Morita was freakin’ awesome.)

My only quibble is with the last page, and in particular the last panel.  With all the grey signifying trees and fenceline, it’s difficult to see what Benny has done.  I assume he’s done one thing, but the angled, impressionist background makes it difficult to know for certain.  But all in all, it’s a great start to a very interesting series, and Maberry does an excellent job spinning this series off from his novels.

Best Lines:

“The Dead Rose.  We Fell.”
“Anyone have a plan that includes running away?”

Subscribe or Shelve: if you like zombies, you’re probably already reading this.  If you’re not, hop to it.

Publication 411: Scheduled to hit shelves April 21, 2015.

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