“When writers tell a story about monsters, we’re usually using them as a vehicle in order to tell a story about our own world.” – Jonathan Maberry
Yes, there is, and it is embodied in Tom Imura. Benny learns that Tom, though a Bounty Hunter, is very different from the brutes who savagely dismember and torture the undead for sport. Tom brings closure to families whose loved ones have turned. He takes letters to the undead from the families, reads the letters to them, then as mercifully as possible sends them to their final rest with the best solace he can offer. “Be at peace, brother,” he says to one of them as he ends his horror. He’s a Closure specialist, a mix of Aragorn, Jack Reacher, and Garet Jax, and he’s one of the good guys. He keeps his word, protects the innocent at all cost, treats everyone around him with respect, fights to preserve the good rather than to take revenge on the evil, and is realistic without being cynical. As he explains to Benny, “I’ve managed to stay alive out here in the Ruin because I’m a realist. I allow the truth to be the truth, no matter how much I might want it to be something else.”
On the other hand, the villains in this series justify their horrific violence against both the living and the Undead in a way that sounds too familiar. One villain notes:
“Hell, boy, I ain’t evil. I’m just the guy that’s in power. I’m a conqueror, like all them great kings and generals in history… Boy, there are people who conquered half the world, slaughtered whole populations, wiped cultures off the face of the planet, and you know what history calls them? Heroes! … We’re a predator species, top of the food chain. Survival of the fittest is written in our blood, it’s stenciled on every gene of our DNA. The strong take and the strong make, and the weak are there only to help them do it…Right is whatever I decide it is.. power is the only thing that matters.”
Welcome to the world of Neitzsche. These moral monsters try to tap into a slogan that was worded differently before First Night: “What’s done in the Ruin, stays in the Ruin.” That’s no more true in fiction than it is in real life. The carnage in the Ruin fuels the damage in their hearts. As Mr. Maberry writes, “Civilization lives in our hearts and heads or it doesn’t exist at all.”
While this series is grim, it is loaded with hope and goodness. We cheer for the heroes and cringe at the villains. It’s the way a good story is supposed to work. That’s not to say the characters are caricatures: they all carry scars; they all wound others. No one is above criticism. But in the midst of soul-crushing darkness the bright light of goodness shines.
“Often it was the most unlikely of people who found within themselves a spark of something greater. It was probably there, but most people are never tested, and they go through their whole lives without ever knowing that when things are at their worst, they are at their best.”
This “something greater” has clear ties to religion. Mr. Maberry noted in an interview:
“My circle of friends range from the most cynical atheists to Right Wing evangelists. That said, if an apocalypse happened, AND if I was inclined to want to assign blame somewhere, I’d probably focus most of my attention on deliberate human action, human error, or human inaction. So… I doubt my religious beliefs would be affected, but I would be sorely disappointed in my fellow men.”
Mr. Maberry provides a fair look at religion, though he does not exempt Christians from his disappointment in fellow men. There are some cult-like crazies as well as skeptics. One man notes, “If there was a God, then he wasn’t on the clock that night. That’s something you can debate at Sunday school. For my part, I don’t see evidence of any divine hand in what happened.” That strikes me as honest doubt in the face of such horrific events. But there are also admirable people of faith. Out in the Ruin, Tom works with Christians who care for the zombies (they call the undead Children of Lazarus) and pray for him as he goes on his missions: “God go with you and before you and within you…may God protect your heart out here in the world.”
In a world characterized by death and decay both internal and external, it is Tom and his friends who offer a path toward hope. Even those damaged beyond comprehension can rise from physical, emotional, and spiritual ashes through the power of goodness, nobility, character, and compassion. It’s not yet the gospel, but the Christian worldview that permeates the story certainly paves the way. ___________________________________________________________________________ (This article was originally posted at http://empiresandmangers.blogspot.com/2013/08/honor-idealism-and-monsters-within.html.) The Christian community is a diverse one. Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the official position of the group at large.