Issue: Risers Volume 1
Release Date: October 2008
Writer/Creator: Martin Fisher
Penciler: Kurt Belcher
Inkers: Steve Farfan & Henrik Horvath
Cover: Kurt Belcher (Colors: Henrik Horvath)
Letters: Peter Simeti
Publisher: Alterna Comics
Alterna Comics’s graphic novel Risers presents an interesting new take on the recently oversaturated zombie genre. Created by Martin Fisher, Kurt Belcher, Henrik Horvath, and Peter Simeti, Risers is set in a world where the dead selectively come back to life when they have unfinished business among the living. In addition to the obstacle of being a decaying corpse, “Risers” are faced with the task of determining why they have returned — usually a secret kept from a loved one or friend or an event that heavily impacted the life of another — and rectifying the situation, whatever it may be.
The return of a woman named Annette several months after her death in a car accident throws a wrench into the growing tension that exists between the Risers, average citizens, the religious communities that condemn Risers as servants of Satan, and those that try to help Risers find peace and die “naturally.” Unlike the other Risers, Annette has no deep, dark secret or outstanding task that she needs to complete, making her return from the dead a mystery that no one knows how to interpret and many fear.
Alterna Comics has a very interesting story on its hands with Risers. Annette’s search for acceptance from her family, her place in society, and meaning in her life as an undead corpse touches upon some rather heavy issues, including the meaning of life, cannibalism, morality, and mortality. Risers can become stuck in their undead state when their families or friends cannot or will not accept that the undead corpse they see before them is their lost loved one and refuse to help them resolve their unfinished business and die peacefully. In some cases, the living reject the dead based on their decaying bodies; in others, they do so because of the stigma attached to returning from the dead — the idea that a loved one was keeping a secret from those that loved and trusted them.
Like some other zombie fiction, Risers features undead that are more than reanimated corpses that hunger mindlessly for brains. Annette and the other Risers featured in the graphic novel are capable of both speech and intelligent thought and often retain most if not all of their memories from life. This makes rejection by family and friends particularly hard to deal with, especially when combined with Risers’ need to adjust to their new appearances and eating habits.
Annette’s unique situation is used to address a number of the heavier issues that underlie Risers‘ storyline, including the ideas of cannibalism and morality. When Annette finds herself on the street with an angry, downbeat Riser named Guy, she comes face-to-face with the eating habits that she is expected to adopt. As Guy and Annette search for a hidden community of Risers in the area, Guy breaks into a morgue to find something to eat. Unlike the other Risers, Annette becomes physically ill when presented with the idea of eating another human being, dead or alive. The situation also highlights an important difference between the zombies in Risers and traditional zombies, specifically the ability to pick and choose what, or who, to eat.
Throughout its 129 pages, Risers sets the stage for some very big action, indicating that there probably will be a follow-up to this story in which readers will discover why Annette has returned from the dead and see the climax of the tension building between those that want to help Risers die “naturally” and those that just want them dead.
Unfortunately, Risers‘s illustrations do not do justice to the novel’s strong, compelling plot and variety of characters. The entire graphic novel is illustrated in high-contrast black and white that makes it difficult to distinguish between the undead and living characters. In addition, the illustrations are not consistent and some of the characters’ appearances shift enough from frame to frame that it is difficult to follow who is speaking if readers do not focus heavily on the dialogue present. The combination of excellent story and sub-par illustrations earns Risers a slightly lower rating than it would have if the illustrations were a bit more detailed or colors were used. Overall, however, Risers is well worth reading, especially if you’re a fan of the zombie genre. It will be interesting to see if the series continues and what the authors have in store for readers next.
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars