Daybreak By Brian Ralph
This weekend at SPX I bought the third book in the Daybreak series by Brian Ralph, writer of Crum Bums and Cave In, and the series is everything a good comic should be. Completely immersive without having to build an unfamiliar world, Daybreak shows you an environment completely in ruin through your own eyes, and I mean your eyes, since you are one of the main characters. You, an adventurous dog and a resourceful one armed boy hide from the living dead scratching at doors and lurching after you. Ralph places you right in the middle of everything going on and your story-self is just as inexperienced in this new world as you, the reader, are. You crave the knowledge your companion has but are scared, and literally unable, to ask him for his help. Instantly he is sharing food with you and you're comfortable being with him, excited even. You are trusted with the task of look out and even the reward of a dead man's pair of pants. Becoming attached to a character in a book has never felt this way, it's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book but everything is so fucked up you don't get to choose, only react to what's going on around you and hope to survive.
The art becomes dirtier and darker as the series goes on and your situation becomes more and more real and desperate. We all use the comics medium for escapism, with different degrees of severity, but in Daybreak we are forced to participate. Losing the flash light feels as fucked up as it would be if there was a real zombie invasion, and finding things like food feels like a triumph. That being said, the "cute" characters keep it light, even when they are falling apart walking dead folk. But they take nothing from the story, only make things feel sadder when you wonder what these people looked like before. It's hard not to compare it to other zombie comics, and I actually mean that. There aren't that many. Even this one sorta fell into my lap because I am fortunate enough to live in Maryland and was able to walk by the Bodega Distribution table at last year's SPX where the books were being sold. Being right outside of Baltimore, the city where Brian Ralph lives and teaches, I was able to go to Atomic Books and purchase the second "episode" of the series. The only other series that even comes to mind is Walking Dead, which uses blood and gore mixed with curse words to make it "gritty." As a fan of zombie-anything, it's hard to find something that isn't terribly campy, or just plain terrible to fulfill my need for zombie survival stories. Latching onto anything I can get zombie comic wise, Daybreak was the light at the end of the tunnel, something completely new and exciting to read without having to deal with titties every seven pages mocking my intelligence.