Author & Letters: Sam Sattin
Artist: Chris Koehler
Zombies have been a staple of horror for as long as anyone can remember. The walking dead have been presented in stories and art ranging from the unexplained supernatural tales to a man-made virus infecting humankind. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead has been keeping audiences on their toes from the floppies to trades and of course the television screen. Zombies for some odd reason continue to fascinate, terrify, and entertain us. Despite such a simple concept of a walking corpse stalking the living, there have been a few storytellers who have found new and innovative ways to keep this genre of horror fresh from turning stale and lazy. LEGEND, by creators Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler, published by Z2 Comics, is one of those recent zombie churns that is certainly not like the others. In this case we aren't following a group of humans doomed to fail and be taken out one by one. No, here we are looking and following from the point of views of our four legged best friends: dogs and cats.
LEGEND follows a pack of dogs that embark (HA!) on a journey to find information and defeat a mysterious evil entity named the Endark. Leading the pack is the titular Legend, our reluctant hero who was given the task of Sunheart, the protector and champion of the dogs, after the previous Sunheart was killed by this strange nightmarish being of the Endark. Willa, the blind dog, acts as the wise overseer who sets the pack off on this journey. Despite having the book named after the lead dog, one must wonder if the title has anything to do with Legend, the dog, but rather the legend of this story that is unraveling before us. And boy, does this book unravel. The dogs are a part of an ensemble that presents each of them with their own voices and their own back-stories, presented to us in beautifully rendered and painted flashbacks. Each dog plays a part and has their own opinions concerning their journey and their feelings concerning particular topics, ranging from cats to humans. We would eventually meet the cats, lead by Queen Bagheera, as we learn that the cats have learned to remake human tech into weaponry to help them survive this zombie apocalypse. As if cats didn't think they were already above everyone else. The tension between the dogs and cats lead to hilarious moments of tension and touching moments of bravery as we see them attempting to work together to overcome this common enemy.
"Oh, cats live here, Elsa. They love the dark. It reflects their souls," jokes one of our canine heroes.
Being a veteran of horror with his novels, Sam Sattin writes his first comic as if he's been in this business for some time. The voices he creates to flesh out each individual character are sharp and keep you engaged and wanting more. Sattin has a great grasp of pacing, knowing when to slow down to allow us to breathe along with the characters and when to catch us off guard and have us cheering for our heroes to run and fight. My favorite thing about this book is that before the first chapter even ends, I stopped looking at the dogs and cats as animals or former pets, but as three dimensional, believable characters, even human. So much so that sometimes when you see a flashback with a human involved, it takes you out for a quick second because of how engrossed you've gotten to these animals as characters. The themes of bigotry, discrimination, empathy, and finding strength to unite against evil are presented so subtlety well that you're taken into this book just as easily as the Endark kills its prey.
Now I've mentioned the Endark a few times without actually getting into detail about what it is. While this book does present zombies, they are not the main antagonist(s) in the story nor do they really play that much of a role despite being used as set up and as plot devices for the overall narrative. The Endark is a creature that is so indescribable that only illustrator Chris Koehler seems to understand its mechanics. Koehler is the perfect artist for this book, mixing different color schemes to emphasize the mood and truly making this book a scary yarn while capturing the humanity and personalities within each and every character. Koehler's dynamic panels and storytelling truly keeps you as engaged as Sattin's dialogue. There may even be an influence of horror from Japanese manga within Koehler's storytelling, in particular the first appearance of the Endark and the reveal of the cats in shadows that made me think instantly of scenes from Hellsing. Whatever messed up influence is going on in Koehler's head, it helps shape Sattin's story to be one of a kind and an absolute must buy.
This is a book that will have you hooked and truly annoyed when it ends because you simply want more. For anyone looking for a solidly engrossing horror read, you cannot go wrong with LEGEND. This belongs in your collection. I look forward to accompanying these four-legged friends on their journey.