Review: “FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead” (Alterna Comics, Festival of Dread Special)

Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering‘s month-long celebration of all things unsightly and undead!

Today we’re featuring FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead, a black and white horror anthology published by Alterna Comics.

Published in 2012, Empire of the Rising Dead is the second in the FUBAR series, which features a collection of war-themed zombie tales. Each of the 27 stories in Empire of the Rising Dead has a page count that varies from a high point of 16 pages to a low of 4 pages, though most are somewhere in between. This means that some of the tales are simpler vignettes, while others actually have space to tell a more complex narrative with better developed characters. The glue that holds them all together is the double-edged theme: all of the stories take place around the Eastern Front of World War II, and they all have zombies, of course. Otherwise, there is no connective tissue between them – they certainly don’t share a single continuity or anything like that. Each creative team was free to explore the theme however they chose.

You might think that the wartime zombies shtick would get stale by before you get through all 27 stories, but there is quite a bit more variety than you might expect. Some of the stories are supernatural fantasy, others are more sci-fi, and there are multiple angles explored throughout, including sea battles, POW Camps, the Chinese front, the dropping of the atomic bomb, etc. Some stories ended a bit too abruptly for my taste (Catch of the Day), while others could be fleshed out into a full-fledged movie without too much effort (Run Silent, Run Dead).

As an anthology, there are many creators involved (40, to be exact). That means that there is a wide array of talent on display, with both top-notch artwork and some that is… less so, though personal taste should certainly be taken into account. It’s also worth mentioning that the book’s contents are well-deserving of the “mature readers” distinction, as there is quite a bit of the old ultra violence on display, and much of it is rather gruesome. It’s a zombie book, after all.

The stories that I personally enjoyed the best were Second Wind, Hachimaki, and Last Dance with Mary Jane, each for their own reasons. One was a heartfelt love story with a twist, another was a lighthearted action-comedy of sorts that ended on a punchline, and the other explored the zombie genre from a really interesting angle – one that I have not seen before. No, not respectively. I’ll let you find out for yourself which one is which.

Anthology books of this kind are usually tricky to review, as there are so many different creators and styles that it’s difficult to have an opinion of the product as a whole. In the case of FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead, making the judgement is a bit easier. Since the zombie and war themes are so pervasive throughout, the end result in a much more unified product. If you are a horror fan, particularly zombies, it’s pretty easy to recommend Empire of the Rising Dead, especially given that $14.95 is a good price for a girthy 272-page book.

You can order a copy of FUBAR: Empire of the Rising Dead directly from the Alterna Comics online store here (when they have it in stock). And if you enjoy it, there are several other books to in the FUBAR series to pick up, too.

Thanks for reading! To check out more of The Splintering’s Festival of Dread content, go here.

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