Plagued is a comic book series written by Gary Chudleigh and illustrated by Tanya Roberts (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). It’s set in a near future Scotland and published by Scottish BHP Comics.
Volume 1 starts with a bounty hunter just about to spring an ambush on his prey. There are two things to note. The first is that he’s on the cusp of being able to afford to move to a new part of the country that’s so advanced it is as if “… the big plague never happened.” The second is that he’s talking to his dog and his dog seems to be talking back.
While Plagued is set in a post-plague-apocalyptic setting and deals with the evil things that people do it also has a cute talking dog. This comic series isn’t a hardcore of horror survival. It’s a young adult story, and that’s perfectly fine.
There are witches in Plagued. In fact, the plague and the witches seem linked together. Witches aren’t old cronies or sinister magic users, they’re more like mutants or superheroes and are capable of feats of incredible power. In the first couple of pages, you’ll get to see one fly around and zap people. Anti-witch technology, though, seems pretty common. It just takes the press of a button, and all witch power in the area is thoroughly repressed.
Miranda soon joins Mackie, the bounty hunter, and Dex, the dog, and the group have some big choices to make. That’s not a spoiler. The sub-title of Plagued is “The Miranda Chronicles”. We move quickly through those action-packed initial pages into the meat of the story. There are 65-pages in the book, and so Chudleigh can’t afford to hang around too much, or we’d never see any progression.
In Volume 2 we’re still following Mackie, Miranda and Dex but they’re in a heap of trouble now. There are bounty hunters after them.
There’s 50 pages in volume 2 and much less story progression. Volume 2 is still fun, but the action almost entirely centres around the crew dealing with this next wave of bounty hunters, one of whom looks a bit like a friendly gnome and setting up the long-term enemy characters that’ll likely haunt our heroes until the finale.
I don’t know if Plagued is planning to complete its story as a trilogy or whether it hopes to run and run. If it’s the former than volume 2 feels very much like a snapshot of the type of drama Mackie, Miranda and Dex get up to in their travels. If it’s the latter, then it’s very much a bridging episode.
I enjoyed both volumes, but the first is much stronger than the second. With the first volume, we enjoy a quick and successful introduction to an exciting world and promising characters. In the second we get a sample of what the trio can do.
The smiling bounty hunter introduced in the second confirms Plagued as being entirely YA rather than 2000 AD-style dark. In part that’s because of the smiling, gnome-like, rival bounty hunter who comes after them. That’s more an art direction than how the character is written, though.
I do like the art in Plagued, but it’s worth noting how much it softens the story. In this could-be-grim future people tend to be smiling. We could have had some scenes of destruction illustrated in horrible detail but, instead, we get a carefully determined middle ground between keeping it YA-friendly and keeping it real.
The colouring is a factor too, giving Plagued a robust indie feel. Pages tend to be dominated by a single colour. This approach works well at times; helping to highlight characters or making essential elements like fire or blasts of energy stand out. At other times it feels like we’ve lost some of the detail we could have had. At it’s worst there are pages were the colouring appears as broad strokes over pencilled illustrations. These are the exception.
As a rule, I enjoyed Plagued. I’m intrigued to find out whether we’ll explore the possible connections between technology and the witches and whether we’ll dig more deeply into the origins of the Plague rather than deal with the potential cure for it. The characters are great, and somehow Chudleigh manages to find a balance with a cute talking dog on one side and a grim future on the other.
My copy of Plagued: The Miranda Chronicles was provided for review.