Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pull List Review: Rebel Blood #4

It felt inevitable as it was unfolding, but I admit I did not see the big twist of this series coming. I took it for granted that the zombies were real, and even though Chuck's sanity was always in question, and even though from the very beginning the book had a decidedly surreal feel to it, I was surprised to discover what had actually been going on. Luckily, even after the reveal, the surreality didn't disappear altogether, and the exact reasons as to what drove Chuck to this level of madness are up for debate. It's a perfectly horrific and tragic ending to a remarkable series, not to mention a brutally violent one.

Riley Rossmo's artwork is a bit more contained when he's drawing the "real" world. The linework is less frenetic than usual, underlining the solidity of that reality. On the other hand, the violence and horror are at their ugliest here, and so is Chuck. In his own mind, he's at the darkest part of his hideous quest, and for the reader he is slowly transformed from the hero to the villain. This issue is all about that disconnect, the difference between Chuck's version of the story and everyone else's, and so Rossmo stylistically straddles the same line.

Rossmo obviously has a lot of love for this project, composing the panels in dynamic ways, using his space intelligently, and generally taking great care with the visuals. The largest example lies in the character of Red, who either is or is connected to the terrifying deer-monster-spirit creature who has been looming in the shadows of Rebel Blood all along. Here, Rossmo dresses him in the darkest, dirtiest shade of his own name as possible, and for a page or two lets the evil seep from him in the way he holds himself and his general detachment from the death around him. Then in one quiet but formidable panel, we see his creepy antlered shadow stretching long behind him, and his wickedness is no longer merely implied. It's a strangely satisfying if unsettling moment, set up and executed perfectly.

The narrative of a man so broken by life that he commits suicide via a killing spree fueled by a twisted delusion of grandeur is not one I've come across before. Rossmo and Alex Link tricked us into thinking they were just doing an original take on zombie comics, and instead crafted a tight psychological horror book that just happened to have zombies in it, too.

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