"I can't imagine anything closer to true Hell on Earth than the city of Stalingrad in 1943 with an army of countless flesh-eating monsters thrown in"
-Introduction by Chuck Dixon
Mother Russia is a mini-series of comics by Jeff McComsey and the first standalone graphic novel by FUBAR Press. It was initially funded by Kickstarter, released in individual issues, and will be available in a completed edition (which is the one I will be reviewing).
As part of the FUBAR universe, Mother Russia continues the premise of the undead being involved at various points in our history. This time, it's the Battle of Stalingrad, a battle usually not focused on in America-centric retellings of history. Nevertheless, the premise complements a strong story, mixing elements of desperate survival and war. McComsey is able to convey a sense of hopelessness, combined with the confusion that would naturally occur when zombies appear suddenly on the battlefield.
The plotline of Mother Russia is fairly simplistic, which was beneficial to the graphic novel as a whole. The book never slows down to accommodate convoluted aspects of the plot, as some science-driven zombie stories have done, instead focusing on the situation at hand. Character-building moments are selective flashbacks that give enough to create a vibrant characters but not enough to detract from the driving force of the main story.
Speaking of the characters, Mother Russia has only a few, but they are all developed and memorable. The main protagonist is a female Communist, a background that is rarely (if ever) used in media. The book does a fantastic job of implementing various aspects of her character, from her inherent compassion to her hardened survival instinct. She finds a fellow survivor in an old military leader, who is both a clever device to introduce the political atmosphere that created the undead and a vivid character showcasing the harsh trials of war. These two characters form the main cast of Mother Russia, though the inclusion of a child and a dog are welcome as well, adding a much-needed brightness to an otherwise dark story.
The art in Mother Russia is wonderful (and gruesome), conveying the bloody battles that inevitably take place between soldiers and hordes of zombies. The art style was befitting of the novel, properly conveying the desperate expressions of the characters as well as the vast landscape of battle.
In addition to the main story, the completed edition of Mother Russia includes a few spin-off comics using the same characters, but from different comic book creators. "The Sniper" was a well-done additions of character background that enhanced the main story. "The Child" was a heartfelt tale of love in the midst of a horrific world, emphasizing the emotional bonds between humans despite the need for survival. "Kindern" was a completely horrific look at the world of war and zombies, not unlike those featured in FUBAR: Declassified. These were all welcome additions to the main story, and if you haven't already bought the individual issues, it's worth getting the completed edition for these extras. If you're a fan of the FUBAR series, these extras might even be worth buying Mother Russia twice.
However, in terms of the main comic alone, Mother Russia is fantastic. A great, engaging story built on a fascinating premise involving vivid, unusual characters creates an enjoyable graphic novel.
Mother Russia is available (in its completed edition and as a special blank cover variant) in the September Previews. Thanks to Alterna Comics for sending this review copy out early!