In a comic book market that is extremely saturated with super heroes and their various re-imaginings and deconstructions, it can be very easy to forget that there are other options out there. Comic books are a medium of great potential, as one could tell almost any story, limited only by what the artist can draw and the writer can write. Myron Macklin’s The Zoo Act presents one of many instances of compelling stories being buried underneath the over saturation of heroes. Macklin, as both the writer and artist, provides a very simple and somewhat short crime drama story about a desperate man of dubious morality. Jeremy and Ramone are two poor guys who rely on dog fighting to make money, usually by cheating and drugging the dogs. They are caught immediately after a fight having given the dog a very powerful and easy to spot steroid. The man running the arena then demands that Jeremy pay fifteen thousand dollars in a day, keeping his friend Ramone as a hostage. Jeremy is forced to take on what seems like a simple job from an old acquaintance, and what ensues is a brutal and quite frankly insane journey involving corrupt cops, murder, domestic violence and sexual deviancy.
The art presented is pretty rough around the edges, but has a very interesting monochromatic style with a blue tint. This seems to fit the gritty style quite well, though in some rare instances the proportions of people, mostly faces, can be a bit odd and off putting. There seems to be a little bit of an over use in the contours of the face, resulting in character faces looking rather scarred. While this does indeed lack the polish of many big name comics, it is not lacking in substance. The story telling is largely where The Zoo Act shines. Jeremy’s narration is undeniably ham handed and contains a severe over use of metaphors for the sake of metaphors, but this is a relatively small complaint as none of it hinders the progress of the story at all. What is most striking here is the true moral ambiguity, or at least a lack of emotional or moral direction given to the reader.
The comic simply unfolds events for the readers without ever even once telling them how they should feel about these events. The main character is seen doing both extremely disgusting things such as participating in dog fights and beating people’s faces in, and extremely heroic things such as saving a woman and her small child from a house fire. Most of the characters are a bit too messed up or unstable for the reader to relate to reasonably, but this story seemed far more focused on creating a spectacle. Overall, The Zoo Act provides an interesting and refreshing experience for those tired of the constant barrage of super heroes. Though it is very gritty and rough, lacking big names or a large budget, there is great potential in Macklin’s art and writing. The ending makes it pretty clear that Macklin wants to do more with this story, so it is likely his style will mature and become something truly memorable. As it stands I can largely recommend this comic to fans of crime drama, those who like to support independent comics, and those who just want something slightly different from their comics.