There's a tried and true method to telling a zombie story, so I have to appreciate a comic that not only has a new spin on the genre but tells it well. For a comic set mostly in one location, Zombie Ranch does a lot of world building, expanding upon what happened in the time before the Safe Zones nearly as much as it does propelling the plot forward. Writer and artist duo Clint and Dawn Wolf have put a lot of thought into how everything works on the ranch from the Siege House to Popcorn the zombie horse. It all works so well that, by the time I was caught up, I almost thought corralling zombies would be a legitimate and safe career. Almost.
Like any good zombie story, Zombie Ranch is, ultimately, about its characters. The Wolfs have brought together an oddball, but lovable, cast such as the well-dressed foreman of the ranch, Frank Hays, who is convinced the Z Ranch will devolve into apocalyptic level conditions at any moment and Uncle Chuck who might be a great cook and rancher but is a little too obsessed with getting himself laid. And, don't think for a second that just because they work for Suzie that they're without their own motivations. One of the many smart things that Zombie Ranch does as a series is it puts its characters at odds with one another constantly over issues both small and large.
Dawn Wolf's art excels at portraying character emotions and is a critical part in the series' world building, making every piece of media or bit of tech look as good as it sounds when described. One of my favorite reveals from the series is the first look at the Siege House. Many people love dreaming up their zombie survival plan. Imagine if you could create a house that was explicitly to keep you alive in case you were swarmed by zombies. Covered in solar panels for energy, tiny barred windows perfect for shooting through but too small for a zombie to get its head through, a narrow entrance, and a moat.
At just shy of 200 pages to date, it'll take you a while to get caught up. Each chapter works together to tell a single story but makes sure to deliver a little something with every page. Sometimes, the comic moves the plot forward, sometimes it's a character moment, sometimes it's a joke, and sometimes it's about expanding upon the world, but, no matter what, Zombie Ranch doesn't waste your time. For an added laugh each week, I highly recommend reading Dawn Wolf's comments, which provide colorful commentary, insights into the creation of the comic, or an extra piece of information on the world.
While you'll have to wait until the end of the world and then its rebirth to order your miracle zed cream, you can keep yourself occupied by checking out www.zombieranchcomic.com, where you can find, read, and purchase the series.
Four Ornery, But Well-Fed, Zeds out of Five