I was introduced to Tony Guaraldi-Brown at SDCC by the insanely well-connected Devon Devereaux. It never failed that every time I went by Devon’s booth he was chatting up another old friend and brought me into the conversation. Tony, who was sharing space in Artist Alley, had a new book out published through Action Lab and their new Danger-Zone imprint. After a minute or two listening to him describe the plot basics of The Final Plague, I knew this was book I wanted to check out!
The Final Plague deals with a zombie-style apocalypse. However, instead of the plague starting with humans, it starts with lower-level mammals such as rats, rabbits, and opossums. These creatures then begin to stalk larger and larger prey…including humans. considering that rats alone outnumber humans by a ratio of six to one, that is a terrifying number of infected, blood-thirsty creatures on the prowl!
The story opens on a farm in rural Iowa. A mother and her daughter attempt to deal with a particularly tenacious rat while the father and son work in the field. It is a bit cliché, but the familiarity of the scene allows the odd behavior of the rat to stand out. Simultaneously, in New Jersey, a researcher is examining a rat specimen similar to the one in Iowa. It is ferocious, hungry, and one of many the researcher has observed. It is clear that this rat’s condition is not unique. There are hundreds, if not thousands of these rats running rampant.
The story by JD Arnold unfolds in a manner which allows the reader to understand not only the horror of the plague, but also the true ramifications of a plague that attacks animals, not humans. One rat may not be that intimidating…but hearing the stories and seeing the evidence of the creatures attacks sends shivers down the spine!
The art by Guarldi-Brown drives the horror home. The reveal on the final page will have you cringing in terror and reminding yourself it is only a story! The art is rough, scratchy, and full of blotchy blacks and spot colors. It has the feel of an indie horror movie whose lack of budget enhances the mood instead of detracts. The off lighting and deep shadows deliver the sense of fear and impending doom.
My only complaint about the book is that, after the first issue, I am not sure exactly who the main characters are? Will it be the family in Iowa? Will it be the researchers in New Jersey? Or will this be an anthology that documents the terror as it unfolds across the country? No matter what the answer, I will definitely be back for the second issue when it is released later this month!
You can download a digital copy of The Final Plague #1 right now, in case your local comic shop does not have it.