I finished this book two nights ago and I am still feeling moved by it. I originally wrote this for our friends over at Word of the Nerd, but it deserves as much publicity as it can get.
Rob Anderson’s Rex Zombie Killer. I saw the cover and thought “A cat, golden retriever, a gorilla with a baseball bat, and zombies? WTF.” And just like that, I knew the comic had to be mine. My second thought was “Oh no, an animal is going to die and I’m going to cry.” But we all suffer for what we love, and I love zombie stories.
The comic prefaces the story in this nutshell “In the wake of a zombie apocalypse, a small pack of animals, led by a golden retriever named Rex, begin their journey across the country in the hope of finding safety…and a home.”
Going into any story that revolves around animals is tempting fate if you are an over-emotional animal lover. Something sad always happens. Until now, Grant Morrison’s We3, which the author listed as an influence, was my only foray into animals being represented by a comic book. We3, the story of three pets kidnapped by scientists for an evil plan, left me fairly disconsolate. I braced myself for the worst and started to read Rex.
Within a few pages, I was falling head over heels for each of the animals. Titular Rex the golden retriever was raised in a lab by a kind scientist and knows of darker things to worry about than the zombies that he will not trouble the others with. Solemn Kenji, a gorilla raised in a language institute who is fluent in sign language and baseball bat. Kenji believes the best about humans and feels guilty about having to off the “rotters” with his bat. Brutus the pit bull raised by a drug dealer; he has seen the worst of life as a dog, but won’t go down without a fight. Buttercup is a corgi mix, brave and optimistic; she wants to make the others proud. And last but not least, the precious and pampered “*Cordelia” of the group, Snowball.
Although the pages mostly feature cartoon animals, they are drawn conveying a range of emotion. I enjoyed the good use of colors in a zombie world. Black and white is reserved for the animal’s flashbacks. Zombies at this point are so overdone, but Anderson has brought something new to the table. The art does the story justice and creates a perfect balance without overshadowing the emotional depth of their journey with too grotesque images as is the norm in the genre.
Anderson says the story was inspired because he was wondering about what happens to all the pets after a zombie apocalypse. Animals have a chance of surviving it seems; they are quick and sneaky but dogs and cats couldn’t open doors or food containers or gather things to take with them (enter a gorilla with opposable thumbs).
I highly recommend this book if you are a lover of animals, or just good storytelling. I found myself laughing, especially at Snowball because only a cat would want to take a nap when zombies are in the proximity. Realizing a lump was making a home in the back of my throat as I was running along with Buttercup and preparing for the worst. Seeing all the good, loyal dogs I’ve known in Rex as he mapped out a plan to save Brutus. In short, this story was overwhelming in a beautiful way and I think if you do not read it, you will be missing something wonderful. What more can you ask from a story than to be touched by it? Rex Zombie Killer is one of the best surprises of the year. As an aside, the gorilla with the baseball bat may be the strongest selling point, but for me, it is the corgi with the song that packs the most power.
Out now. Rex Zombie Killer from Big Dog Ink. Written by Rob Anderson with art by Dafu Yu, colors by Kevin Volo, and lettering and design by E.T. Dollman. I asked Rob a few questions and I hope to have a little interview with him posted here soon. Stay tuned!
Retails for $3.50 (worth every penny).
*Cordelia Chase of course, for you non-Buffy folk
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