Writer: Katie Cunningham
Artist: Mike Bogdanovic
Colorist: Danielle Wiebe
Letterer: Aaron Rackley
Publisher: Time Bomb Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A pulp-inspired WWII action-horror romp about a former fighter pilot with an alien entity within her.
Rotten Under the Snow is a cross between the gritty atmosphere of Enemy at the Gates and the preternatural insanity of Hellboy.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Inside Leningrad, two years into Germany's siege of the pivotal Russian city, several burnt bodies are discovered throughout the war-torn region with their insides warped beyond anything that could be remotely described as human. Sent in to investigate the bizarre occurrence is Dajana, former fighter pilot of the famous civilian unit "The Night Witches" Squadron, whose encounter with alien technology left her psyche fused with a monstrous alien persona. Alongside Dajana is her trusty confidant, Anton, and Lyubov, a deadly sniper and the pair's personal envoy through the desolate streets of Leningrad. They soon discover the mutilated corpses are linked to a Nazi paramilitary unit's attempts to summon the aliens responsible for Dajana's condition.
Together, the unit must journey to the source of the Nazis' twisted experiments inside an abandoned factory, flanked by snipers and other supernatural horrors. Will the ragtag unit make it in time to stop the Nazi's diabolical plot? What twisted monstrosities await them along the way?
Katie Cunningham weaves pulp adventures, gritty war dramas, and science fiction horror together for a wonderful dose of escapist entertainment.
Mike Bogdanovic's versatile artwork perfectly complements the narrative's various genre shifts with his strongest pages being ones that emphasize the science fiction horror sequences. His vision of alien landscapes is so grand that it makes the core cast feel minuscule by comparison and gives off feelings of cosmic horror.
Danielle Wiebe's bright green color scheme for the alien technology stands out wonderfully across the muted colors of the streets of Leningrad.
Aaron Rackley's SFX comes to life when depicting moments of visceral action. The SFX choice for Nazi-Alien hybrids regenerating stands out as a moment that evokes a visceral reaction from the reader.
Dajana's character arc of rediscovering her humanity despite having an inner monster is a familiar character arc, but is executed with enough heart to make it an entertaining journey for the reader to follow her.
The use of the real-life Soviet Night Witches was a smart concept for a WWII story. While some time periods have been played out, there are always unexplored corners of history for readers to learn about and give a familiar time period a fresh angle.
Lyubov is the standout character of Rotten Under the Snow. She has a swagger and a competitive spirit that endears her to the readers as a seasoned sniper who's fun to see trade quips with Dajana or get into shootouts with Nazis.
The flashback of Dajana's first encounter with the alien technology is an effective sequence, showing us Dajana in her prime just before it's tragically cut short.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: This story contains several depictions of disturbing violence.
The story's antagonist, while a serviceable foil to Dajana, wasn't memorable in his own right. There is one scene that explores his motivations, but other than that there's not for the reader to latch onto.
While the final battle succeeds in bringing Dajana's arc to a satisfying conclusion, the final battle itself felt rushed for the scale of the threat in the third act.
Based on the copy provided for this review, there was a typo on the front cover in the creator credits and on a story page where a character's name is spelled two different ways.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Rotten Under the Snow is a thrilling WWII pulp adventure with flashes of cosmic horror, resulting in an engrossing read from cover to cover. Katie Cunningham's brisk narrative and Mike Bogdanovic's versatile artwork are an effective one-two punch with the pair able to seamlessly navigate sequences of gritty sniper battles and cosmic horror without missing a beat.
Despite the story's not-so-compelling antagonist and a rushed final battle, Dajana, and Lyubov are compelling leads whose journeys more than make up for those shortcomings. If you're in search of a new comic for your weekend or coffee shop reading, then look no further.
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