I reviewed the first two issues of Brian Ralph's zombie post-apocalyptic story DAYBREAK in an earlier column, and I noted that the story is so striking because of the way Ralph immerses us in his world. It's an ugly, broken world that is densely depicted, and the reader gets a visceral understanding of what that world is like as Ralph tells the story from the point of view of the reader, an unseen character in the story. This issue ramps up the stakes, tension and horror considerably.
The one-armed protagonist and the unseen reader stand-in have been captured by a crazy old man, whose purposes are uncertain but most likely nefarious. The issue is a tense showdown between the one-armed man and the old man as they scheme around each other, with the first climax culminating in the unseen character taking decisive, explosive action. The old man wound up double-crossing our protagonists in horrific fashion, as the one-armed man met up with the old man's "family", with dreadful results. With the knowledge that his days as a human are now numbered, the issue ends on an uncertain note.
Once again, there is no explanation or backstory presented by Ralph. With an assumption of the audience's familiarity with this sort of scenario, Ralph drops the reader into a disorienting situation and challenges them to keep up with the shifts in tension and tempo. We go from moments of tense waiting to sudden frenzies of action, punctuated by moments of black humor (like the way a certain human head is used as a prop). Throughout, Ralph displays his chops as a visual storyteller, especially one sequence where our nervous unseen protagonist walks outside at night with a flashlight. The panel where we see the legs of zombies appear in the view of the flashlight is especially chilling. At this point, I'm eager to see where this story is going to end up. It feels like we've reached a middle point of the story, and I can't imagineDAYBREAK lasting more than a couple of more issues, but we'll see.