By Frank Tieri, Oleg Okunev, and Rob Schwager
What if the end of the world has already taken place 1,000 years ago? What if it was covered up using a “fake news” story like the Black Plague? This is exactly what happens in the AfterShock Comics series, Pestilence. Issue #2 continues the dark adventure as a group of holy soldiers head back to the Vatican to protect it from an evil invasion. Though dark, Pestilence takes readers on a fun romp through an ‘end of the world’ scenario with a group of sword swinging knights. It’s fun and intriguing to see how they come to terms with what the reader may see as a modern enemy they’re confronting.
Frank Tieri’s Pestilence is a unique take on the zombie apocalypse genre mixing medieval times with an unstoppable spread of mindless killing machines. While it could be written dark and depressing, there is almost light-heartedness to the story. Although the members of the Fiat Lux are facing what could be the end of their world, they are most often bickering among themselves. When it comes to fighting, though, they know how to get the job done. It is the fun in this story that makes it work and stand out from other zombie stories. The reader may find that this is almost a Disney version of a zombie movie as far as the characters go. The group reads a lot like Robin Hood’s merry men at times. However, the gory limb chopping and nudity keep this from being a family friendly romp. That’s good, though, because the dismemberment is part of the fun. Tieri does a good job at writing the confusion and horror of the men as they are encountering this mind bending problem. For readers, zombie’s are a part of the modern-day zeitgeist, but for these medieval men it is a situation that is unthinkable.
Oleg Okunev’s artwork is another reason why some readers may feel Disney-esque overtones in this series. The cartoonish look that he uses for the book keeps the mood alive even though the events get dark fast. Even the zombies with their rotting bodies have an almost cute and love-able quality to them. You might expect to find plush dolls of them in comic books stores. This is isn’t a bad thing and fits with this story very well. The artwork isn’t minimalist, though, and has a lot of details in the costumes, zombies, and scenery. It is especially cool to take a close look at the larger scenes with mountains of zombies in the mix. There are fun details of different body parts falling or being hacked off as well as just seeing what each zombie is doing. The panel layout is nice and fits well with the mostly constant action of the story line. Each scene captures a lot of movement of the characters even when there are just conversations taking place. This gives the book more of an animated feel rather than the reader just taking in a static series of images. Schwager’s coloring is done very well, but can at times be on the unsaturated side. This may be just the digital review copy, though, as the printed version may be a bit brighter. Most of the colors used are on the cooler side of the spectrum which fits well with the theme of the book. Schwager does handle lighting really well which is important for a book that exists before electric bulbs and lit only by candles.
Pestilence is a different look at a genre that most readers have seen a hundred times before. The story is just original enough, and the art fun enough to keep this book from being lost in a pile of other similar releases. Take a look at this book if you like a lot of fun details in your art and a lot of dismemberment in your zombies. It will fulfill both of these requirements if they are missing from your life.