At a time when almost everyone seems to have their own spin on “the zombie apocalypse”, it can be hard for new creators to break out with something new within the genre. Thankfully, some of the most creative takes on post apocalypse fiction tend to be had with independent publishers like Card Shark Comics. Based in Scotland, the company was founded by Dave Cook, who has united with artist Chris O’Toole to bring his signature series, “Bust” to life. Successfully funded on Kickstarter, the first issue is available via their website as well as in print, with a second issue due up next year. Insane Comics has partnered with the company to publish this series, so there seems to be no better time like the present to get in on the ground floor of this new series.
Set about five minutes into the future, “Bust” tells the story of Jack, a seemingly average man who made a living as a house dealer at a casino, cheating regular Joes and Janes like himself out of their money. When a plague starts to make people sick, then resurrect them as zombies, society (at least in North America) collapses into chaos and savagery. Concerned only with protecting his wife and son, he led them as far as their trailer and ultimately their feet would take them. Avoiding both zombies, roving gangs and armed guards, he ultimately found himself in the walled community of Austin, Texas. The city is ruled with an iron fist by billionaire tycoon Eddie Scott, who quickly puts Jack to work at his old profession at one of his own casinos. The day that Jack grows a conscience and considers fleeing the compound is the day that Eddie Scott becomes his enemy. Now forced to fight in Scott’s gladiatorial arena for the amusement (and distraction) of the masses within his city, only the zeal to be reunited with his family drives him past one horde after the next. A mixture of “Spartacus” and “The Walking Dead”, Jack learns the hard way that despotic tycoons can’t be trusted, and that a revolution isn’t all its cracked up to be.
The first issue of “Bust” is 32 pages of stunning black and white artwork by O’Toole. His characters have just enough detail to seem real without being so detailed as to appear too stiff or rigid. The world of “Bust” is often grimy, dark, and violent and O’Toole depicts this (and Jack’s physical transformations) wonderfully. Fans looking for getting their maximum bang for their bucks should be pleased with a very involved and progressive script presented by Cook. Although it does rely heavily on narration, more happens within this issue than in about three or four regular comics. A reader can follow several rises and falls of Jack over the course of the story, as he seems to go “bust” more than once in his life. The action sequences are short yet brutal, and both Cook and O’Toole manage to sell the savagery of their post apocalypse without delving so far into gore that it becomes perverse (which some comics do). Some of the elements may seem familiar by themselves, but they are combined in clever ways with a third act which showcases that the simplest solution is rarely the best and that life is more complicated than action movie cliches suggest.
“Bust #1” is a great origin sequence for Jack, as subsequent issues promise to see him do more traveling and team ups with fellow wayward warriors. Post apocalyptic stories often work as a means of delving into the psyche of a character or on the oppressive faults of society, and “Bust” is no exception. Print issues will be coming soon (or can be ordered overseas via their website), but as this debut issue is being offered pro bono there’s no excuse to not give it a whirl. Those seeking an interesting, gritty, and unique tale of urban decay won’t be disappointed.