Zombies. Haven’t we had enough zombies yet? I know I have. Movies, TV shows, games, comics… I’m sure there’s probably even a few theatre shows about them by now. What else do we need? Zombie opera? Zombie rock band? A sporting team to use a zombie as their mascot? Why, oh why do we have so. Many. Zombies.

Ahem. Sorry about that. The Rage, by Pierre Boisserie and Malo Kerfriden, is a new series in the Zombie Apocalypse genre. Fifty or more pages per volume, each book isn’t quite a graphic novel, but is much longer than your standard floppy, single issue comic. Published by Titan Comics, Volume 2: Kill or Cure continues the story that began, as you’d expect, in the first. The world has discovered a new virus which affects only prepubescent children, turning them into vicious, merciless killing machines. These aren’t your “walking dead” zombies, the children are apparently still alive, but they become virtually mindless and full of anger – Rage, if you like – and the governments of the world have begun to kill or detain all the “chuckies” they can.

Our main characters are Amina and Fred, who are married and both soldiers amidst the chaos that is engulfing France. Amina is searching for her son, Theo, who is infected by the virus while Fred is coping with the loss of his two children at the beginning of the plague. I, perhaps like you, haven’t read the first volume, so I went In blind, and I have to admit I may have lost a little of the impact for it. Amina and Fred, for example are apart for most of the book, and I don’t know if their marriage is discussed in the previous volume, meaning it came as a bit of a shock to me when their story linked up. I can feel what was likely the idea behind a lot of the story, but only after the fact, so any building emotional resonance might have simply passed me by.

Fred buries his children. Yeah.

It… it does get a little dark.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time with the book. It was fairly well paced, maintaining tension throughout and building to a suitable climax, with characters pushing forward with their own agendas and furthering the plot themselves, rather than letting things happen around or to them. But at the same time, having come in late, I found it hard to connect with the main characters, not really understanding why they were doing something when they did it, only afterwards when they explained it. This is obviously my own fault, having been informed that this was, indeed, Volume Two, but it felt almost as though it was the second half of a whole book, not a continuation. If I started reading Harry Potter at Book Two, there’s certain things I won’t get. But starting Book One at chapter eleven would leave me high and dry. This is the second volume, sold separately, but I feel like its just chapter four.

I wouldn’t want to give the wrong impression though. It’s not a case of constant “Who’s that guy?”, but more a case of “Why is she doing that? Who is she talking about? Why are those two so angry with each other?” It’s easy enough to understand what is happening, but the power of the events might be somewhat lacking, having not read the first book. I know it’s hard to nail that fine line of retelling your story and motivations, while not being overly expository, but I feel like we strayed too far down one side this time.

Now, you may have noticed the names of the creators of the book. Pierre Boisserie and Malo Kerfriden. Those are some European names if ever there was some, and without meaning to sound stereotypical, you can see it in the book as well. The book lacks splash panels and the visceral, visual cacophony so common in American comics, looking and reading very differently. It has tight, square panels and detailed art, with a focus on character emotion more than the action being portrayed. This can make some of the bigger action scenes feel small, claustrophobic and intimate, for better or worse. It becomes a book focused on the lives and the stories of its main characters. As I mentioned earlier, though, when I am distanced from those stories by the script, it can leave the book rather cold.

Maybe it's just me, or just the military setting, but this looks right out of Akira. Seriously.

Maybe it’s just me, or just the military setting, but this looks right out of Akira. Seriously.

Cold, though, could well be a stylistic choice, given the art decisions made. The colour pallet, provided by Boubette onto Malo Kerfriden’s pencils, is a mixture of greys, dark blues and blacks, with only the occasional burst of brown or deep orange. The book then switches to a solid red overlay when the children attack or kill en masse, soaking those panels in a blood coloured wash, partly reflecting the horror of such a scene, and partly to represent the red-eyed rage the children are themselves experiencing. I do have a problem recognizing individual characters from time to time, with a majority of them wearing army fatigues for most of the book, making each “generic white male in grey” hard to identify (though this, in itself, could be a visual metaphor for the military’s dehumanization of its soldiers just as easily as an undesired byproduct of a realistic style). Helpfully, the most important white army dude has a goatee, so there’s that.

I do have to give The Rage a massive compliment for its visuals, however, since they reminded me very much of the Japanese manga classic Akira, by Katsuhiro Otomo. Part of this is obviously similar thematic elements (military scenes and governments feuding amidst a functioning post apocalyptic world) but they go beyond that too. Otomo was inspired by western films in his own art, and his pencils are some of the most precise and detailed in the medium, giving his work a stark, horror-filled world when the realism clashes with the awful goings on. And in that way I have to give Malo Kerfriden a huge compliment, dipping into that well.

Army guy with a goatee helps too.

Generally speaking, The Rage Vol. 2: Kill or Cure does its best and continues its story, but standing alone as a piece of genre fiction it gets somewhat drowned out amongst a field already saturated by other zombie apocalypse stories. Having children instead of adults is a neat gimmick, obviously, and one that is addressed as part of the story, but the horrifying nature of the government and various militia forces liberally exterminating virtually all children under twelve is pushed to the background for the story of Amina and Fred, whose blended family is torn apart by the tragedy itself. Both of these are interesting concepts, but they need more room to breathe and hopefully each will find its own space in the following volumes.

The Rage Vol. 2: Kill or Cure goes on sale January 6th via Titan Comics, Comixology or at your local comic book shop. The Rage Vol. 1: Zombie Generation is similarly available right now!

Overall Score
78 %

A new gimmick in the zombie genre wars, but a little cold and a little distant. Room to improve.

Story 80%
Script 70%
Pencils 83%
Colours 88%

About The Author

Living in Australia, my life is probably quite like yours, except hotter and with more dangerous animals. I've had a love of comics for the last 20 years, which is almost exactly two thirds of my life, and very little else has been with me that long. I fancy myself as a writer, but I fancy myself as many things that I'm not all that good at, so go figure. I have strong opinions but I love to discuss things, so please comment, cos I'd love to hear what you think of what I think.

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