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Spotlight on: 28 Days Later: The Aftermath by Steve Niles, et al.

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28 Days Later: The Aftermath by Steve Niles, et al. Steve Niles (writer), 28 Days Later: The Aftermath
Dennis Calero, Nat Jones, Diego Olmos, and Ken Branch (illustrators)

As a companion to the film, 28 Weeks Later (the sequel to the hit zombie thriller 28 Days Later), Fox Atomic's comic division (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) has released a graphic novel intended to span the time between. 28 Days Later: The Aftermath covers the development and discovery of the Rage Virus and takes us through the next six weeks.

Steve Niles has written a gripping four-part story based on the film's concept. Three separate storylines -- each given its own section, and each illustrated by different artists -- combine in the fourth and climactic portion. This mix of talents offers a range of styles, but leads to some inconsistency in character appearance. I had to become visually reacquainted with two characters; luckily, they introduce themselves to each other.

"Stage 1: Development" is drawn by Dennis Calero and follows a set of misguided scientists and their neurochemical experiments on aggression in chimpanzees. Calero focuses on the darkness of the lab and its surrounds with his palette made up mostly of shades.

"Stage 2: Outbreak" is more colorful as Diego Olmos and Ken Branch follow a family, out on an afternoon picnic, who come into contact with one of the escaped Rage-infected chimps. The situation quickly spirals out of control. This portion was by far my favorite of the quartet, due to its more sustained pace. Where the other narratives are primarily quiet scenes with bursts of action, "Stage 2" takes off from its fourth page and doesn't let up. It also involves an emotional component missing from the other sections.

In "Stage 3: Decimation," Nat Jones brings back more muted tones as we witness one man's fight to survive in the changed world. (This portion takes place during approximately the same time span as 28 Days Later, but none of the film's characters appear in any of the stories.) In "Stage 4: Quarantine," Calero takes over the illustrating duties once more (he also is credited with all the coloring), as the survivors are brought together into a "safe" location, leading to a shocking conclusion with a depth I was not expecting.

Niles's brutal storytelling often recaptures the frantic feel of the film, making it a must for fans. Also included is the script for "Stage 3," which will surely assist aspiring comic writers in formatting for the medium. Following along, I gained valuable insight into the process of making words come alive via illustration. My only real complaint is this: In both "Stage 1" and "Stage 4," Calero more than once uses the same illustrations for different frames. This gives an eerie feel to a scene that is supposed to be comforting, and distracts from the flow of the story. Altogether, though, 28 Days Later: The Aftermath is a high-quality original presentation that will no doubt please fans of zombie horror.

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2007. Reprinted with permission.

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