Several years after bringing about the destruction of Austin and revenging himself upon the man who destroyed his family, lone fighter Jack now wanders the empty desolation of a world ravaged by a plague that reduced most of the human race to mutated monsters.
This time around, however, the slavering mutants barely get a look in. Out here the greatest danger to an individual is not the wandering monsters but their fellow humans, now banded together into the roving gangs of leather-clad sadists that a post-apocalyptic landscape always seems to bring out in people. A particularly ruthless group called The Smilers have set their sights on Jack, as their mysterious masked leader seems to know him despite the grizzled old warrior having never encountered them before.
In the years that have passed since Austin was destroyed, Jack’s name has become equally revered and feared, his name a shadowy legend whispered in the grimy dive bars where hardened survivors drink away the emptiness of their desperate existences. People react to him as either someone to be admired or feared, often both, his very existence an unspoken challenge to those who would oppose him.
We also learn that some semblance or order might still exist somewhere in the fractured United States. However, with primal urges now driving much of survival, it’ll take more than a reiteration of patriotic values to put an end to the primal free-for-all most of the country now operates by. It gives the story places to go other than endless fights with anonymous thugs, and promises a wider scope to proceedings to be developed in the future. In doing so, the story wrangles multiple characters simultaneously, placing equal levels of import upon them however minor they may be so that each arrives fully formed, and even ones who are only around for a few pages manage to hold our interest for the brief time we spend with them.
Ronin, in case you’re unsure, existed in feudal Japan and were samurai without a master, warriors cast adrift and denied a place in society. An apt designation for Jack, and not just in a practical sense, because he fights with a katana. As the world continues to crumble around him, he is driven by his constant search for somewhere he can find some meaning in his directionless life of violence, while doing all he can to hold on to the memory of his wife and son and with it a tenuous link to his shattered humanity.
Like some bastard hybrid of The Walking Dead and Mad Max, with only its second issue Bust has given itself a solid foundation from which to build. If it can get this good this quickly, then whatever comes next will be something to look forward to.
BUST #2: WASTELAND RONIN / AUTHOR: DAVE COOK / ARTIST: CHRIS O’TOOLE / PUBLISHER: CARD SHARK COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW