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Daybreak, Vol. 2
posted November 3, 2007
Bodega Distribution, soft cover, 48 pages, 2007, $10
Brian Ralph's zombie story, currently being serialized on-line
, moves into its second published chapter with a subtle shift downward from the first chapter's frequently bewildering intensity. Ralph even toys with what had seemed like a purposeful decision to not show the creatures with several glimpses in this book, in a variety of forms, often that of victim status. What settles upon the proceedings is a more subtle sense of discomfort that only comes with relief, in this case the feeling that a life lived hand to mouth, running so as not to be murdered and devoured, isn't exactly the way anyone would choose to live. By easing off the throttle, Ralph gives us a world where dying might not be that awful an option given the state of what passes for living. An upgrade in dread isn't a negligible thing for a middle chapter in any kind of horror-related art to be able to claim.
In that vein, the figure in front of us that was so welcome in the previous chapter starts to become a symbol of our growing disenchantment. He's not great company, for one, and it's easy to see his future feelings for our presence in the disdain he feels for a dog that keeps showing up. Still, with Ralph's choice to make each panel a tightly focused representation of what we can see, inserting us into the story, we have to confront our inability to turn away from him. That's a fascinating effect, unique to this project's story and presentation, particularly as it comes in the course of what's a standard narrative. It's one that Ralph then turns on its head in the final sequence when he affords the reader a final, perhaps decisive move. There's definitely an intelligence animating what might seem to some like a limited story. Beyond that are the usual pleasures of taking in Ralph's visuals, the sense of humor not far away even during the worst circumstance, the way that he draws confined places with such attentiveness that they really feel like worlds unto themselves. These little chapterbooks feel like the lead-up to a larger, more considered work, but as with the minis that Ralph used to hand out in anticipation of future trades they're so fun and visually appealing you don't mind as much owning the same work twice, or even just in this rougher form.