COMIC BOOK REVIEW: ROT & RUIN: WARRIOR SMART / AUTHOR: JONATHAN MABERRY / ARTIST: TONY VARGAS, OLIVER LEE ARCE / PUBLISHER: IDW / RELEASE DATE: MARCH 31ST
Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart is a graphic novel set in the world of Jonathan Maberry’s award-winning series of young adult novels, also called Rot & Ruin. As the name suggests, this is a post-apocalyptic world in which zombies roam free and mankind struggles to survive.
The tale sets things up quite quickly; the main characters are a team of teenagers who fancy themselves as samurai. They are surviving as scavengers in a world that has completely collapsed. Fortunately, the walking dead are easily outwitted and seemingly simple to destroy; their only threat is in vast numbers.
The characters themselves aren’t terribly distinctive or interesting; they seem to have one quirk and one emotion each, and Maberry makes up for this by keeping the action quite high throughout. The plot of this story involves another set of survivors who have come up with a sinister plot to save humanity. These people, led by a cult-like leader called Farmer John, are also fairly generic. The main problem with the plot is that it’s obvious from beginning to end, which hampers any attempt at tension. What could have been commentary on the inequality in society is instead just a rather loathsome B-movie plot. Zombie stories only ever really work when they’re about something that isn’t zombies, and though Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart has a stab at being about something, it really doesn’t go anywhere.
The various plot points are icky and unpleasant in a horror movie sort of way, but ultimately fail to have any emotional impact, despite the best efforts of the artists. Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart fails to engage the reader, simply by not having any interesting characters.
Tony Vargas (Temple Run) and colourist Oliver Lee Acre’s work is very good, atmospheric and solid. The art style is has a cartoonish quality to it that lends itself well to this story about teenagers, and the many action scenes are clear, quick and highly enjoyable. Vargas is happy to give plenty of visual cues for the reader throughout, and though the work isn’t deep, it is very clean and accessible. The art works very hard at turning a lacklustre comic book script into something entertaining and almost succeeds. Sadly, almost is not enough and this is simply just another rather dull zombie story.
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