White Box Hero : Pieces For Mom By Steve Niles and Andrew Ritchie

I'm the type of dude that will spend two hours flipping through a quarter box of comics with the hope that there will be at least something sorta cool in there. Every once in a while my nerdity pays off and I end up with something greater than I could've ever expected...a white box hero!

Written by super famous horror dude Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, and apparently harDCore band Gray Matter) and drawn by the not-so super famous but deserving Andrew Ritchie, IMAGE Comic's one-shot Pieces For Mom, Tales Of the Undead is both a filthy zombie survival story and more real-to-life than most comics ever hope to be.

A young boy named Mike lives in an apartment with his older brother, Derek, and their mother. The father of the family was lost in a food run, never to be seen again. With her mind clouded, their mother ran into a room crowded with the undead, and was bitten and infected.

She managed her way back to her children who could not kill their own mom. Now, Derek and Mike are stuck trying to take care of each other and the shell of the only parent they have left.
In a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world, it's hard enough to survive for a kid, but with your older brother being a one time class bully and who needs a place for his aggression, your life can't get much worse. Being forced to make the food runs for the two of them would be dangerous enough, but finding something to keep your mother quiet becomes tricky.

After checking in on his mother and getting in between the crossfire of a shotgun as Derek kills a zombie, Mike gets into their car--a Volkswagen beetle with steel plated tires and reinforced windows--and smiles as he drives away. Even during the apocalypse, it's still pretty awesome to drive illegal. Sniping scavengers shoot at him while living dead rip apart a survivor who wasn't careful, and all Mike can think about is the wasted meat.

He stops a few blocks from a house to watch a girl jump rope behind her protected suburban home and doesn't stop to think about how much he misses being a child, or how fast he's grown, he maturely responds with parent-like concern about her well-being: "How could she just be out in the open like that? Fence or not, she could get hurt in any number of ways." The girl's family steps outside, nice and normal, something Mike has missed being for a very long time. When he looks closer he sees his father, and realizes his parents didn't get split up, they split up, and because of his father's infidelity, his mom is a zombie and his life is in shambles. He cries and tells his brother with a walkie talkie to clean up the apartment and shoulders his rifle, and takes his father's new family as his dad had taken his own. His father begs for his life, but Mike is no longer the sentimental child he once was, he is a prepubescent man, a survivor. He pulls the trigger, taking his dad's life as he begs for forgiveness, and grabs the bolt cutters from the trunk.

Feeding his mother her former husband, Mike is happy. Killing his father and taking revenge gave him something new to feel, which was all he really needed.
Derek and Mike find happiness in their anger and frustration with their dad, and are able to come together for the first time since their parents both abandoned them.

The saddest thing about this comic is that the zombies do not define the story as it would seem, but it's the family's collapse. Parents split up for reasons too complicated for the children and the one who leaves becomes an enemy. Derek would've continued to treat Mike poorly and avoid his mother, who he may even blame for the separation, even if it wasn't hell on earth outside. The younger brother Mike would have still had to step it up and play provider to his family. The undead just made everything that much worse, and their actions that much more important to their well being as a family. The boys are happy to see their mother excited when they bring meat in, even though she is no longer the person they knew, or a person at all. Family was all that was ever important to these boys, and what has kept them alive for this long.

From these panels, you can see how great Ritchie's art is and how much it adds to this comic, just under bright, but too soft to be considered dark. The use of black for blood and Derek's general demeanor are perfect, and the fact that the only bright colors in almost the entire comic are Mike's sweater vest and dorky orange shorts sets him apart even more. Zombie survival stories are always easy to relate to. Bringing up "What if..." conversations with friends, and serious thought put into what WE would do. Comics like this add to your all around zombie survival plan, and this one in particular makes you wonder if you'd kill your dickhead brother if he was all the company you had left.

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