Mother Russia issues 1-2
Writer/Artist: Jeff McComsey
Zombies and comics have proven lucrative bedfellows this past decade. Series like The Walking Dead, Crossed, iZombie, Marvel Zombies, and Australia’s own Sydney Zombie Apocalypse have forged new frontiers for horror’s famished flesh-eaters, and readers keep devouring them like freshly served brains. It’s a perverse irony of the medium that fans and creators get up in arms – and rightly so – about the ongoing exploitation of Golden and Silver Age comics heroes and the corresponding lack of recognition and reward for their original creators or their estates, but continue to support the exploitation of those brands and, indeed, the modern zombie, a creation largely attributable to George A. Romero for which he has yielded little from the film, game, television, merchandising and comics empire his creation has spawned.
Soapbox aside, I get it. The zombie now inhabits the same “myth pool” – to borrow from Stephen King’s Danse Macabre – inhabited by Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster and werewolves (basically, anything that appeared in The Munsters). It’s hard to begrudge creators wanting to play in that pool, or fans wanting to take a dip, especially given how malleable the zombie figure has proven to different contexts and story possibilities. A case in point is Mother Russia, written and illustrated by Jeff McComsey. The series is set in World War II-era Russia, and speculates an alternate history where Stalingrad becomes overrun with zombies. After a female sniper comes to the aid of an infant alone and endangered by the zombie hordes, she joins forces with a renegade Nazi general and his loyal dog Brubhilde to survive against the ravenous undead.
On the surface, Mother Russia reads like a mash-up of 28 Days Later with Dead Snow by way of Inglorious Basterds (much of the first issue transpires in a tower from which the lead character shoots the shuffling zombie antagonists below, echoing Nation’s Pride, the film at the centre of Tarantino’s film), but that feels reductive. To my mind, Mother Russia feels more like an issue or story arc from Garth Ennis’s War Stories or Battlefields, one that just happens to feature zombies. Like those terrific stories, there’s a certain simplicity and purity of purpose to the narrative, as well as the sense that this small tale is a microcosm of the grander, global narrative and tragedy of the war machine. Of course, where Ennis’s tales are rooted in history, Mother Russia mashes horror with history, which appears to be the publisher FUBAR Press’s bread and butter.
The comic is at its best in issue one, focusing on the sniper’s daily routines and customs: here the storytelling is primarily visual and text is kept to a minimum. As the series progresses, it inevitably accumulates more dialogue and more plot “business”, but McComsey keeps things moving along and his black, white and grey artwork is a good fit for the era and the stark, ashen environs of the story. If you’re not already on-board the zombie comics trend, Mother Russia will do little to convert you. But if you’re a zombie aficionado and curious to see those ubiquitous critters doing their worst in historic Stalingrad, Mother Russia is worth a look. Readers looking for added value will also find a bonus short comic in each issue: #1 features a prequel story by McComsey illustrated by Steve Willhiti, whilst #2 features a tale scripted by Chuck Dixon with art by McComsey in which American soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War cross paths with the local undead.