FUBAR is a zombie horror historical comic book created by Jeff McComsey. The FUBAR series is collections of stories compiled by theme and time period, and By the Sword takes a macabre look at at a long chunk of history when battle was fought with swords rather than guns, armored knights rather than tanks, and when enemies met face to face to lay each other low. Like all other FUBAR collections, By the Sword explores a period of history and adds a zombie twist to the stories. Some of the shorts follow soldiers, or warriors as they encounter the undead for the first time, falling prey to the animated corpses. Others see armies going out to fight the horde of undead, only to fall to the mass of clawing and biting monsters.
The art and production of By the Sword are both well done. The black and white panels are dark and gritty, fitting the theme of the subject. Each artist meshes well together, keeping their own personal style, but blending well with the others that it’s easy to forget they change from story to story. The art uses just enough detail to put the reader into the scene, but I liked how rough, almost sketch-like most of it is. Every scene seemed jagged, sort of like a raw nerve, which is how I would imagine living in such a world would be. The writing is also good, following along with the art there’s just enough dialogue and scenes to tell the story. Nothing seemed long-winded or unnecessarily drawn out. There is also some clever humor, which was a great contrast to the horror of the panels. Each story is a brief flash of the world, so while you do see unique characters in each story, some with distinct personalities, there is little time for character development. That is to be expected with such short pieces of story but something to keep in mind when going into this volume, it’s more highlights of the FUBAR universe than a lengthy story like Mother Russia.
The volume I have has ten tales, including the quiz at the end which we’ll count because it does have a writer and artist. My favorite has to be Sir Gawain and the Green Knight of the Living Dead. Part of it is probably my love for Arthurian stories, but I just like the twist on Gawain’s original poem. The story still has young Gawain taking up the challenge to strike down the mysterious knight, and promise to return for a similar blow in a year and a day. The panels, like the rest, are well drawn and the dialogue and action are easy to follow. The artist captures movement and action perfectly in each panel as we watch Gawain travel to the Green Knight’s chapel to fulfill his promise. Of course he reaches his appointment as sworn, and let’s the Green Knight strike him a similar blow, and we see a little bit of Gawain’s character when he flinches away. I think of all the shorts in the volume, this one had a little more character development which may be another reason I liked it.
The graphic novel itself has more than just the stories mentioned. The end of the book has sort of a history quiz, in the FUBAR theme. Questions about weapons, or historical figures under a panel depicting a related bit of historical zombie carnage. Each story also begins with a beautiful title page, similar to a heraldic crest with a zombie character done in the theme of the story, which gives you some idea of the time period the next tale will be set in. This volume is a short book, and quick to read. So if you like zombies and ancient history, I’d recommend picking this one up for a fun read. In some cases you can still find the one-volume issue that I picked up with the card stock covers, or they’ve released a giant-sized two issue series that’s available now.