THE OTHER DEAD #6 of 6 (IDW, March 19, 2014 release date) Writer/Co-Creator: Joshua Ortega. Co-Creator: Digger T Mesch. Art: Qing Ping Mui. Art (Epilogue): Mike Shoykhet. Inks: Jose Aviles, James Lyle, and Qing Ping Mui. Colors: Blond. Letters: Tom B. Long
The good news is that you don’t have to be a regular reader of THE OTHER DEAD in order to appreciate the contents of Issue #6. In fact, if you’ve stayed on the sidelines all this time you can still get a pretty good feel for the atmosphere and tone of the mini-series by jumping on right here. What you will be treated to is an intense story of human survival against impossible odds. Issue #6 spins a grisly yarn that pits the team of seven characters against one nasty obstacle after another until the final resolution some 23 pages later.
The bad news (well, for some of us) is that it ends without any explanation of the events that caused the animal epidemic to occur. There is also no indication that the contagion has been halted, or even contained. (The epilogue contains more bad news). On the other hand, there is so much more story to tell that many readers will be glad to know that a second THE OTHER DEAD series will debut later this year. Rightly so and very welcome news to many of us, as we have only seen a little cross-section of this imaginative creation (a clever spin on standard zombie tropes). There’s a much bigger world here, and I suspect an even bigger story to tell. Bring it, gentlemen!
Everything comes to a gigantic broil in Issue #6 as the intrepid band of survivors make their escape from the surrounded homestead only to end up in an even worse place. As they await the President’s extraction team to rescue them, they face an even tougher selection of raving mad berserker animals out for human blood and guts. Instead of facings squirrels, rats, birds, deer and bear they must hold out against more exotic animals, including zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, caribou, boar, and a rampaging rhino. Just as they seem to be safe, their luck turns sour as they crash their helicopter inside a wild game preserve!
This issue is a gigantic showcase for the incredible illustration skills of artist Qing Ping Mui, who doesn’t hold back and lets it all out: great detail, savage action, red-eyed rage, faces of determination, fear, despair, and also hope – – it’s all here. The rest of the art team does a superb job of highlighting his fine work and are equally up to the challenge of inking and coloring scenes that for the most part take place in the dead of night and in the middle of a hurricane force storm = dark, cloudy, gray, red and atmospheric times three!
Not to be missed are the scenes involving a crazed and determined rhino with more lives than Morris the Cat. Brave little Tommy puts a lubricated exclamation point on the end of that encounter.
Perhaps it was done so no one feel cheated, as one member of the party doesn’t survive the opening scenes. There may be some readers out there who were rooting for the animals to claim final victory and be disappointed that anybody survived. However, when the actual President of the United States gets inserted into the storyline, you should be anticipating a somewhat happier ending. Seriously, did you expect writer Joshua Ortega to kill President Obama off?
During the course of this story, there are instances of symbolism as well as the possibility of deeper meaning for readers who might want to explore further. But, there is never any indication that an actual political statement was under the surface story. THE OTHER DEAD does portray the President in a favorable light, as he responds the way American citizens expect their president to respond in a time of crisis – – with bravery, patience, leadership and determination. Sure enough, when the situation calls for balls-to-the-walls intensity and time to fight back with fury and defend humanity, he lets it all hang out. There probably won’t be a Republican Party rebuttal to the events of THE OTHER DEAD. (Besides, didn’t somebody once say that Republicans don’t read comics?)
Some may say the story ends, appropriately enough, with both a religious and then an inspirational message. No sooner does little Tommy get on his knees to pray (and joined by redneck Chet) than his prayers get answered. Then, Chet turns to the President to infer “Take it you ain’t that religious, either”. Obama responds with “Oh, no, I am . . . but I also put great faith in humanity.” After reading this series from the beginning and never experiencing even a whiff of spiritual essence up to this point, I remain skeptical that this was writer Ortega’s intent. I seriously doubt that he suddenly began to drink or wash with holy water and came up with this ending as a result. Rather, I believe the clue to the inspiration for the entire series is exhibited (and not for the first time, just much bigger here) on the very last page. There is a clever interpretation of a famous logo there (“His Master’s Voice”, the RCA Victor dog). It wasn’t holy water that kept things flowing – – it was a little sumpin’ on the order of a more adult beverage.