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In this feature we take a look at a comic book that fell on the wayside despite being a gem – a very bloody gem too. Pieces for Mom was a one-shot that came out in 2007 and was written by one of the masters of comic book horror, Steve Niles, writer of such fan-favorites as 30 Days of Night and Simon Dark.
In Pieces for Mom we join Derek and Mike, two young boys trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. Their previous life as a happy family is seen being shattered by the zombie apocalypse when their mother and father go on a food run one day and only their mother returns, with a nasty zombie bite. Being their mother and retaining her ability to speak, the boys can not put her out of her misery and keep her chained up in her old bedroom, continually feeding her flesh.
The premise alone is intriguing and somewhat unique despite the overused zombie motif. The way the issue puts its focus on family life before and after the apocalypse is intriguing and really makes me wish Pieces for Mom had been a series, or at least a mini-series, so we could have had more of an opportunity to get attached to the characters and see the drastic changes their lives went through.
Steve Niles makes an admirable attempt in trying to achieve both of these seemingly unachievable tasks and does a fairly decent job, but fails to completely succeed where the sentiment is concerned. Most of the characters are interesting, with Derek being the much harsher older brother and Mike being the younger, but seemingly wiser and more sympathetic brother. It is said that their relationship was much better in the past, and this is the only point in the comic that needed to be explored further. By the end of the issue, Derek is still a jerk to his brother and without any events to reference, readers cannot see what kind of person Derek was before the apocalypse. This takes away any chance readers had in feeling sorry for him.
Before the end of the issue, Niles seemed to have a surprisingly sentimental feel going for the boys: they lost their parents and their relationship with each other. This sentiment is only increased with a shocking twist that was a huge and satisfying surprise. But the final page goes for the classic horror shock value which completely throws away any sentiments the readers may have started to feel and really highlights why this should have been a mini-series.
The mythos given to the zombies is also very unique, but seems indecisive. Some zombies can talk, some can’t. Some can run while others can only hobble. It is never explained why they are different, likely because of the length to which Niles had to abide. The art from Andrew Ritchie is full of over-the-top violence that sometimes goes overboard. Gore hounds won’t be complaining though, as they are treated to intestines, car crashes and other delectable zombie treats. There is a great two page spread with several zombies, each with very distinctive characteristics that make everyone seem unique, just like the rest of this comic. Even the regular non-zombified characters inadvertently seem creepier at times because of how they are drawn. This may have just been poor artwork on Ritchie’s part, but it only adds to the creepy tone of the comic.
Any zombie lovers will enjoy this comic. Pieces for Mom is not a masterpiece even by horror standards, but that is mostly because it was held back by being a one-shot. Sometimes Ritchie goes overboard on his grotesque art and the attempts at sentiment are ruined by the end, but for gore hounds and people looking for something good and unique to read and want to get into the spirit of Halloween, this is the perfect comic to read. And it gets even better, but unfortunately only for readers and not Niles.
Apparently this comic, while seemingly doing very poorly commercially, had some 20,000 downloads online… all illegal, meaning Niles saw very little money for his project, a shame since overall this is an enjoyable piece. So, as a bittersweet Halloween treat, Niles has a free download for the comic, meaning you can read it legally, absolutely free. Thank you Steve Niles. I may never have found this rough gem if you had never uploaded it and many horror fans will be thanking you as well! Click here for a copy of Pieces of Mom and some words from Steve Niles.