Well here we are at last with the beginning of Issue #3 of Zombie Ranch. Dawn had less work to do than usual since I went ahead and indulged in some wordiness, and it’s not fair to make your artist try to cram in a lot of images if you’re also going nuts with the text. I hope the brief “history lesson” was intriguing rather than just a tl;dr situation. Then again, anyone who reads this blog probably doesn’t have tl;dr issues to speak of.

We’re still trying to get everything arranged for Long Beach, but should hopefully be able to continue the comic straight through. We could have waited to start again until after, but that just seemed like too long a pause, so we’re making the try. [EDIT: Of course, now Dawn’s computer is acting up in a bad way, so stack that on top of everything else. *sigh*]

All our orders for various stuff are in, and we for sure will have a nice stack of Issue #1 copies to sell, along with some convention approved Halloween candy to give out on Sunday. Now we’re just waiting on the Zombie Ranch stand-up display, plus another special giveaway item that we’re hoping will arrive in time. Since it’s cutting close to the deadline I don’t want to get anyone really excited about said mystery item, but if they do come in time we think they’ll be really fun, especially for people like yourselves who are fans of the comic.

Now then, I wanted to bring back a topic that I’d announced before on our Facebook/Twitter, and that’s the free online comic out right now for the Left 4 Dead game series, called The Sacrifice. Dawn and I both love Left 4 Dead and its sequel, but the characters were always a bit of a broad sketch, and the story not particularly emphasized. That’s not a bad thing when your intent is to create a fast-paced action game about killing tons of zombies, but I have to admit that there was one related download I felt unsatisfied with, called The Passing. Maybe it was the rampant hype surrounding it, claiming amongst other things that you’d finally be able to mix-and-match the survivors from L4D and L4D2, and that in order to finish the campaign, someone would have to intentionally sacrifice themselves.

Without getting into spoilers, let’s just say the results were underwhelming, particularly in terms of an offscreen death of a major character that’s apparently already happened when you arrived, and is so unremarked on that the first time through I didn’t even notice the body. Also, the L4D survivors weren’t interactable at all, much less playable. The Passing had new maps and new weapons, but just seemed really… half-assed? Incomplete?

Anyhow, the DLC release of The Sacrifice (game portion) really seems to make the incomplete part clear… I think The Passing and The Sacrifice were originally supposed to be released together, but for whatever reason Valve ran out of time. Perhaps that was for the best, though, since we got the comic out of it.

In general, I’m not a big fan of comics based on movies or videogames, since they so often are just cheap money grabs on people who like the brand, and that lack of quality shows through. But in this case, The Sacrifice comic was being offered online, for free, not even requiring ad viewing or a mailing list sign up… so what the hell, after checking out the first few pages and finding them good, I decided to share the news.

Then later, I went back and read through all four chapters, and what do you know? It’s actually really, really good. I said before that the characters in L4D are broadly sketched, but there’s enough of a sense of who they are that they could have still been screwed up. Instead, the dialogue and actions of the four survivors felt absolutely authentic and consistent to me, even carrying over the witty banter of some of the better exchanges. You get more than just a logical sequence of events carrying the group from point A (the end of L4D) to point B (the beginning of The Sacrifice)… the comic also manages to both create and elaborate on some character arcs and give a bit of smoothly delivered backstory on where each survivor was when things first went to hell. Zoey’s flashback is particularly chilling, if you pay attention to what she’s told right before she starts to remember it, and it makes her attitude for the ending portion all the more justifiable.

There’s more than enough zombie-slaughtering mayhem to go around, which would probably have been made it worth the read just in of itself, but what’s surprising is the amount of thought and soul that went into the comic. It is very, very well written, even as a standalone story–much less as a video game adaptation whose only real mandate was likely to fill in some blanks and promote an upcoming DLC release. Chet Faliszek, Jay Pinkerton, and Michael Avon Oeming have given us something really great here, and more than that, given it to us for free.

Also, Bill is an absolute badass. We already knew this in our hearts, but to see it in action is a thing of beauty. Go read online, download the PDF, or (as of this week) get it on your mobile device through Comixology. If you’re into zombie fiction, L4D, or both, it’s well worth your time.