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Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Kyle Strahm
One of my favorite horror/sci-fi movies has always been John Carpenter’s The Thing. A more faithful adaptation of the novella Who Goes There? than the 50’s adaptation, Carpenter amped up the terror and gore with truly nightmarish effects from Rob Bottin and Stan Winston. Given my affinity for this type of story, I could not wait to read Justin Jordan’s and Kyle Strahm’s Spread when it came out. I’m glad I stayed with the series, as it is developing into its own sprawling story despite some familiar roots.
Spread is sort of a mix of The Thing and Lone Wolf and Cub, with some additional characters and situations thrown in. Imagine if The Thing from the movie had escaped from Antarctica and, well, spread over a great expanse of the world. This area, the Quarantine Zone, is infested with a multitude of horrific monstrosities that would be at home in a Carpenter or Cronenberg movie. It’s an almost impossible life for the people trapped in the QZ – roving gangs, slavers, starvation, and the ever-present Spread creatures. Dystopia with monsters that will eat you.
Issue 9 introduces a new group of potential antagonists – these cruel men making a feral boy fight a wild dog. The feral kid is a nice homage to the child in The Road Warrior and looked a lot like No, one of the main characters of the book. I thought we might be getting an origin story for our wandering warrior, but it becomes apparent that this is not the case. This further demonstrates how far the QZ has fallen since the Spread took hold.
The story then sets up a very tense negotiation between The Professor, an Artful Dodger-like character introduced in the last issue, and Jack. Will he provide be the break the “good” guys need, or will it take them out of the frying pan and into the fire?
I’ve really enjoyed Justin Jordan’s writing on this book. He’s taken concepts from some great sci-fi movies to the next logical step, constructing a world all his own full of characters with motivations that come into conflict. With a lesser writer, it might seem extremely derivative of previous works, but he manages to use these familiar themes to craft his own tale.
I’ve been worried that he was writing himself into a corner by taking No out of the action for so long. He’s developing the other characters like Jack, but hopefully Jordan will get No back on his feet soon so the action can begin again.
As for the look of the book, you’ll either like Kyle Strahm’s art or be turned off by it. The character designs are very stylized and different. He doesn’t go for realism, landing somewhere between Heavy Metal magazine and manga. That said, I can’t imagine anyone else on this book, especially where the monstrous Spread creatures are concerned. There’s a grotesque segment in the middle of a floating jellyfish-like monster attacking a bear that is really beautifully done.
“Spread #9” is a good issue that fleshes out some of the characters while introducing others, but it’s light on action involving the main characters. Definitely enough to keep me coming back next month to see how it turns out, but not a jaw-dropper as far as action or plot twists are concerned. A good book, though.
Note: I am upping my rating from 7 to 8 since this book should be a solid “B” on a grade scale. 🙂
“Spread #9” earns 8/10.