The Final Plague begins in Lehigh Iowa on May 4, 2012. As someone who hates any kind or rodent, this was not a good comic for me to read. It begins when a small farming family finds that their home has become infested by rats. Helen is tough as nails and ends up killing the first one after a battle on her front porch. Helen is forced to use a shovel to decapitate it and even then, the damn thing still twitches.
The second rat attack happens in New York City on the same date. A homeless man is drunk in an alley when he is attacked by what can only be described as a horde of rats. There are so many rats, they quickly overpower the drunk and consume his alive.
The third incident happens on the same date in a lab in New Jersey. Jeremy is working with the rats and he notices that some of them have bloodshot eyes and assumes they are blind. Because he believes the rats to be sick but not contagious, Jeremy does not follow along with proper quarantine protocols, much to the disgust of fellow scientist Carol. Of course it's not Jeremy is hurt but a fellow when the rat sprays blood at her which lands in her mouth. Finally, it's decided that the rats need to go into quarantine and be dissected so that the scientists can figure out exactly what the hell is wrong with them.
The one thing that is certain is that rats aren't acting the way that rats are supposed to. Normally, a rat would shy away from a human being if it encountered them but these rats are bold enough to actively attack humans when they come into contact with them. We later learn that it's not just the rats and that in fact all of the furry rodents are doing damage to humans when they encounter them. The red eyes suggest some sort of infection which is making the rodents more aggressive than usual. Alan, the exterminator posits that all of the pesticides that humanity has been using has emboldened the rats and changed their behaviour. Of course, Alan finds out the hard way when he succumbs to the rats when he tries to exterminate them at the farm.
The Final Plague Vol I
quickly establishes the idea that rodents aren't behaving normally and are attacking and consuming humans. As someone with a deep fear of rodents this comic rises to the level of horror for me. It does however make historic sense. We know for instance hat the bubonic plague was carried by fleas on rats which is estimated to have killed 50 million people. Rodents are nothing to joke about because they carry disease, so the idea that the end of humanity might come at the paws of rodents makes perfect sense. It's particularly true in a city like New York city, where the rat population is enormous. Think about what it would mean for humanity if the rats suddenly started working in a swarm to attack humans. And since they can slip into a hole as big as a quarter and quickly reproduce, this would be a true nightmare because not only have to deal with the diseases which rats carry, we'd be attacked as prey.
What is less believable than a plague caused by rats that quickly moves onto other animals is just how quickly society falls apart. From beginning to end, it takes 24 hours before cities are burning, the main lab must be abandoned and a significant portion of society is either dead or infected. I appreciate seeing the beginning of a dystopian society; however, having society fall apart so quickly is just ridiculous, even if we are all surrounded by animals to some degree.
We really haven't been introduced to a lot of characters so far. The most prominent female characters are Helen, who is a wife, mother who is dealing with a cancer diagnosis and Carol who is a scientist. What both Carol and Helen have in common is that they read like harpies. It's Carol and Helen who demand that the men in their family and work space do something about the rats. It is suggested to each woman in turn that they are overreacting. Jeremy in particular is dismissive of Carol concerns, claiming that his name is on the research grant as well. Common sense should have suggested to Jeremy that rats with red eyes are a no go but instead what we have is a man bucking against being told what to do. It's particularly grating since Jeremy is the reason the plague exists in the first place. Jeremy's name may be on the research but it's Carol who is the head researcher and such it's Carol who takes responsibility for Jeremy's actions and creations. So not only was Jeremy a fool who did't take proper precautions and caused the plague in the first damn place, it's Carol who is going to be held accountable.