For the 'Repo!' Fan Who Has Everything

If you're one of the many fans of Repo! The Genetic Opera who still flock to midnight screenings of the film (or wish such screenings were held in your town), you might be curious about Repo! co-creator (and Grave Robber) Terrance Zdunich's latest project, The Molting, a twelve-issue, self-financed, self-produced comic book series that approaches its subject with the same unflinchingly extreme viewpoint that the cult fave film musical does. Read our review after the jump.

Like Repo!, issue 1 of The Molting begins by focusing on a young girl put through a bizarre, nightmarish struggle and landscape. In the town of Muscoy, in 1961, Susanna Deveraux and her brother Anthony are recently orphaned children placed in the custody of their grotesque, psychotic aunt and uncle. It's not long before violence erupts and Susie's mind is unhinged by tragedy. 

Issue 2 begins many years later, in 1992, in the "Happiest Place on Earth", Anaheim, California, the home of Disneyland. Now Susie's a mom raising two sons -- handsome, popular Trevor and Joe, who's just one car-radio theft away from prison. (Susie herself appears to suffer from extreme depression, which isn't helped by her aimless husband Abe.) By the end of issue 2, a new phase of "molting" is about to begin, prompted by the arrival of Trevor's oversexed girlfriend Sandra. Then again, the omnipresent cockroaches in the family's home might be fucking things up too...

Though Zdunich's best known to horror fans for his exemplary work on Repo!, the creator has made his living principally as an illustrator, providing storyboards for Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers ChroniclesWhat We Do Is Secret (a live-action documentary about The Germs) and Sean Penn's Into the Wild. He's also provided concept art for Bones. With The Molting, he puts his illustration skills (enhanced by colorist Brian Johnson) to fine use, utilizing a style in issue 1 that's just cartoony enough to amuse, just illustrative enough to chill; perfectly suiting the fractured fairy-tale tone of the tale. In issue 2, Zdunich boldly and radically changes that style. It's no less illustrative (thank goodness, as the man has a terrific sense of anatomy), but it's mory hazy, druggy and dreamlike, befitting a new family crisis. 

It may be too soon to rate Zdunich as a professional comic-book writer, as his story (at least in its second issue) unfolds slowly, and isn't exactly packed with dialogue, but there's a nice, steady sense of mounting dread that indicates a real flair for pacing, a talent I wish more of today's comic scribes possessed.

I'm looking forward to issue 3 of The Molting, and to sitting down with the inevitable book collecting all twelve issues. Zdunich is a true iconoclast, and the medium of comics, as emotionally immediate as that of film, suits his skills perfectly.

The Molting can be ordered through its official website