Daybreak started out as a big mystery to me. I picked-up the second issue, recognized that the art was obviously my style, and so I bought it, at the same time ordering the firs issue. I waited till I had both to read them, and I was glad for it. These two issues have left me ready for more.
Brian Ralph lives in Baltimore, Maryland with his wife, Megan, and their son, Miles. (That’s what I want to name my son.) (Someday.)
Ralph posts various illustrations on a blog he shares with 12 other talented people. Daybreak, which has had two physically published issues, is a story he’s been posting in pieces. Those two issues get you through part 38, which ends with a cliffhanger. If you dig through the blog (seriously, guys, a little navigation help, please), you’ll find he’s up to #53 thus far.
So, it’s a zombie story, it seems. I don’t think we’ve actually seen a zombie in the story thus far, but it has all the conventions of a post-zombie-wave story. It’s interesting, too, that while zombies are all the rage with the the big, action-focused publishers (everyone from Avatar to Marvel to IDW has at least one zombie book on their roster.) there are also these very unconventional genre stories from much, much smaller houses.
Daybreak is distributed by Bodega, and Fantagraphics published by favorite recent zombie story, The Living and the Dead, by Norwegian uber-talent Jason.
Jason’s book was distinguished not only by his unique techniques, but also by its complete silence. Daybreak is highly unusual for the genre as well. First of all, it’s drawn by Brian Ralph, who’s illustrations are very friendly. Like Kevin H., he often represents entire faces, even writ large, with 4 or 5 well-placed lines. The book is monochromatic as well. The ink’s not black, I don’t think, it’s sort of a dark brown.
The most distinguishing characteristic of this very unusual zombie story is, though, that it’s entirely from a first-person perspective. That’s right, you’re in the story. Each panel represents the view through your eyes. The characters talk to you, but apparently you don’t say anything.
This allows for all sorts of fun. Characters zip in and out panels, sometimes the action gets chaotic and all you see are falling boxes or rocks. There’s a dog in the book, and occasionally he sticks his snout right in your face, filling the panel.
The effect, thankfully, really works. I went from curious to just plain creeped-out in about 10 pages. I also got really attached to my one-armed companion and maybe even moreso to that dog, who pops in and out of the story “lik a bad penny”, as is said in the book.
It’s great to see how Ralph’s doing more with less here. Like the great low-budget time travel movie Primer, Ralph creates an effective genre book without the splashier, flashier trappings you’d expect. He pushes the limits of his creativity and story-telling abilities, and the result is an engrossing comic and, in its first-person technique, a definitive example of something comics can do better than a most other forms.