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The Rabid: Volume 1    by Jason Burns & Guy Lemay order for
The Rabid
by Jason Burns
Order:  USA  Can
Viper Comics, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

The tagline to this graphic novel could very easily be Cujo meets 28 Days Later. That easily sums it up. When a dog at a research facility gets out of its cage and bites an intern, the local town faces an epidemic of death and chaos that no one, even the police chief, is ready to deal with. The dog has a virus that passes quickly from canine to canine, but requires a more penetrative transmission for humans. Infected humans morph into flesh-starved mindless beings who want nothing more than to find more humans to feast upon.

Though not decidedly identified as zombies, their modus operandi certainly measures up to profile. Indeed, much of the story works to the conventions of the zombie narrative, including the leader-figure (Police Chief Kevin Chase) who must take charge during the chaos and save as many people as possible, including his family but also less reputable people; such as the man sleeping with his wife. He and his motley crew of survivors must battle their way to safety; at times finding that safety in the most unlikely places and continually having to deal with the infestations of the disease among the group; leading to hard and violent decisions. Meanwhile, the government has become involved, setting up a quarantine around the town - but their motivations are dubious as far as Chase is concerned.

The story is strong and Burns keeps up a good pace; never slowing down for too long and keeping the action coming in a variety of directions. Overall, the art does well, depicting the gore sometimes inside the panel and sometimes capturing characters' reactions. Though the art is a bit too iconic and rigid for the context, it has an interesting effect. While Lemay's simple line drawings don't do justice to the gore and mayhem that exists throughout the book, it creates a tone that is part caricature and part surrealistic. So while an artist like Ben Templesmith will evoke a level of anxiety for readers that is on par with the story, Lemay's rendering distances the reader from the story.

Overall, though, readers will enjoy this first book. The storytelling keeps everything together and provides a good base for further story arcs. As it ends on a pivotal cliffhanger, readers will eagerly look forward to devouring the next volume in the series.

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