Comics Time: Daybreak Episode Three

Daybreak Episode Three

Brian Ralph, writer/artist

Bodega Distribution, October 2008

52 pages

$10

Buy it from Bodega, eventually

The third and (for the moment) concluding volume of Brian Ralph’s unique, first-person post-apocalyptic zombie comic, Daybreak Episode Three is the series’ most Romero-indebted installment so far. Mad survivors desperately clinging to the literally decomposing remnants of their former life, elegiac post-bite journeys into that good night, “the humans are the real monsters”–this one hits all the classic grace notes, and in specific fashions that bring to mind not just Uncle George’s genre ur-texts but also the series most responsible for reviving its fortunes in comics, Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. What keeps Daybreak from feeling even remotely by-the-numbers even so is Ralph’s joyous, textured cartooning, which lends every actor and environment the same ramshackle, palpable look and feel as his breakthrough caveman adventure Cave-In. You’re simply not going to sit there and sigh “I’ve seen this before,” even if technically you have, in the face of comics this fluid and thoughtfully designed. Just take the character designs as a for-instance: Their cutesy kids’-comics faces and bodies are varyingly employed to make their savage actions all the more disturbing and their sad fates all the more affecting. Placing them in a world as far gone past the point of no return as any this side of The Road is ironically rather fitting, since it suggests a frivolity to their struggles echoed in their just-for-fun appearances. You’ll want things to work out, especially after reading that delightful final page, but you won’t be holding your breath; maintaining that balance between bleakness and simple enjoyment of first-person-shooter shenanigans is quite an achievement.

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