Zombies Occupy Stalingrad in Jeff McComsey’s Outstanding Graphic Novel, “Mother Russia”

An effective alternate history that illustrates love in a world of monsters.

 

AUTHOR G.K. CHESTERTON wrote “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

I remembered that quote today as I was reflecting upon Jeff McComsey’s 2015 indie comic series, Mother Russia. Specifically, its main character, young Russian sniper Svetlana Gorshkov. From her safe, well-stocked perch atop a tower overlooking Stalingrad, she surveys a vast field of enemies, too many to count—some wearing the uniform of the German invader, some wearing the same uniform she does. They’re all her enemies now, because at some point during the bloody Battle of Stalingrad the dead began to rise and come after the living.

And by now you know how that goes. The Dead proliferate while the living find places to hide. Svetlana’s war is now a dispassionate one, a struggle to stave off cabin fever. She puts down zombies because, frankly, she’s all alone and she has little else to do. Until one day, when a living, breathing baby boy appears in her rifle’s scope, and Svetlana suddenly has someone to fight for.

“Mother Russia” cover, paperback collected edition.

It’s a tribute to McComsey (Flutter; Horror in the West) as an illustrator and storyteller that the very first time we lay eyes on the child—toddling around innocently amidst of a horde of flesh-eating monsters—we experience the same primal, gut reaction Svetlana does. Our hearts break even as they begin to race, and just like that, our story is off and running.

Love is a recurring theme over the course of this 3-issue series from FUBAR Press, an imprint of Alterna Comics. It’s the engine that drives nearly every action, and not only Svetlana’s. There are other characters in this story—protecting and cherishing life as the world around them dies—but I will let you discover those for yourself.

McComsey’s illustration style here is almost abstract. You don’t simply process what’s being depicted, you feel it. This approach works especially well for a story that, though loaded with action, is based in emotion. McComsey’s logistics are well thought-out as well. The story has a strong sense of place, and the black-and-white motif really lends itself to the period setting.

And in addition to the main story, the series includes three bonus tales that delve more deeply into the backstories of some of the characters, as well as events leading-up to the outbreak. McComsey’s collaborators on these three bonus tales include Steve Willhite, Giles Crawford, Mick Shubert, Shawn Aldridge, and comics all-star Chuck Dixon (Batman: Knightfall), who also wrote the book’s excellent introduction. McComsey credits Jeff McClelland (The Tick) as his story editor.

Mother Russia is currently available both digitally and as a collected-edition paperback, but the really exciting news is that it’s set for republication in June as a three-issue series in Alterna’s much-anticipated new line of newsprint comics. Mother Russia will release bi-monthly (6/17; 8/17; 10/17) and retail for only $1.50 an issue. That means you can collect the entire series in glorious newsprint for less than 5 bucks! Visit Alterna for more information.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The most compelling stories being told in comics these days are being told by indie creators. Mother Russia makes my case.

EYE IN THE SKY: The opening spread from Jeff McComsey’s “Mother Russia.”

Images: Alterna/Fubar Press

                                                               

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Stephen Vincent D'Emidio is the editor and publisher of Wonder Alliance. steve@wonderalliance.com

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