Written by: Michael Alan Nelson
Artwork by: Declan Shalvey
Boom! Studios has gotten a lot of press lately for their licensed titles, but they’ve mainly been all-ages material, Disney-Pixar or the Muppets, but now they are launching a new series based on decidedly more adult material, Danny Boyle’s 2002 movie 28 Days Later. One of the films responsible for the resurgence in popularity of Zombies, and yes, I know that ‘The Infected’ in the film are not actually zombies, and they run too fast and purists hate them, but it was a damn good film, and this is a damn good comic.
Set in between the film and it’s sequel (28 Weeks Later, which I haven’t actually seen yet), the film follows the character of Selena (played by Naomie Harris in the film) who has been left traumatized by the events of the film, and is living in a Refugee Camp in Scandinavia, when an American Journalist comes and asks her to be his team’s guide when they go and pull a John Pilger in the wastelands of London.
Writer Michael Alan Nelson does a good job of addressing the events of the film without being overly reliant on them, we get nudges and mentions of events like ‘Worsley House’ or the Manchester Three, and the first page features Selena’s nightmares of the past, but it’s vague and cryptic, I would argue that you do not need to have seen the film to be able to follow this story. It’s typical of many comics these days, where you introduce a character with a dark past and slowly unravel it. Nelson does more than just reference the film though, he adds more to the character’s past than was established. We see her life before the Infection, and it adds a lot, this book has to tread a line between keeping true to the films, but also going somewhere new, and this depth is a definite boon.
What I liked most about this opening issue was that it plays up the suspense and danger of the situation, rather than just showing balls to the wall violence. We go upwards of 20 pages before even seeing an infected, much like in The Walking Dead, the obvious touchstone for any Zombie fiction in comics, (and also like the film, with Christopher Eccleston’s character), the Zombies are not the only threat, not the biggest threat, it’s people themselves, and in particular here, the US Government. It’s a very effective technique, holding out as long as possible before we see an infected, you know this is a bad idea, you know these reporters are foolish to go into London, you are feeling scared and uneasy before anything happens.
And when it does happen… it’s exciting, newcomer Declan Shalvey’s artwork is not flashy, but on this kind of book it doesn’t need to be, it’s gritty and expressive, and the Splash page where Selena unleashes her anger… it’s a great moment, helped a lot by the kinetic pacing and clever panel work of the previous page. Shalvey’s art reminds me of Sean Phillips (who provides a variant cover), and other artists you see in 2000 AD. His likeness of Serena is also very strong.
If I have one complaint is that a few of the Journalistic team are a bit underdeveloped, and maybe the central character of Selena too, who may seem a little thin to those who haven’t seen the film, but I’m sure some of these character’s are going to be developed, and those who aren’t dispensed of in a nice gory red-shirt fashion. Using journalists is a good idea though, and Nelson puts it firmly in a real-world setting, these guys have been to Darfur, they’ve been to Afghanistan, in the world of 28 Days Later, London is in the same boat, it’s a chilling idea, and a very powerful one.
Overall, this is a strong first issue, highly recommended for any fans of the film series, and even for people who haven’t seen the film, but are hankering for more survival horror, 28 Days Later walks a fine line, and it does it very well, and when you reach that last page… you’ll know we’re not just in for a retread of the film, things are different.