Along with 28 Days Later: the Aftermath, I also just finished reading Elk's Run, a graphic novel written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and featuring art by Noel Tuazon and Scott A. Keating.
The good folks of Elk's Run had good intentions when they decided to make their West Virginia mining town into an isolated utopia. But as with all things, time takes its toll and their perfect world is collapsing.
The story is primarily told from the perspective of the town's children, namely main character John Kohler. John is the son of Elk's Run survivalist, patriotic, and overzealous leader. And after his father commits a rather heinous act, John and his friends are forced to rethink if their isolated utopia is really so utopian. There are a few Stand by Me moments to tie the kids' lives together but the story's main commentary resides in demonstrating how far the characters go, parents and kids alike, to protect what they believe is right.
The writing is pretty good but it stands better as an entire graphic novel. Initially, Elk's Run was a self-published eight-issue series that was picked up by now-defunct publisher Speakeasy. After Speakeasy folded, Random House’s Villard imprint came to the rescue and collected the story, along with 100 additional pages, as a graphic novel. As eight individual issues, I don't think the story would have as much resonance. But when you can read it in one sitting, in one collection, the story carries a bit more weight. Aside from that, my only comment on the writing would be that Fialkov throws in too much swearing at times, especially when the kids are talking to each other, and it occassionally distracts from the actual dialogue.
As for the art, at times it's a bit too loose for my tastes but it gets the job accomplished. If anything, the coloring is what really brings the mood of the story and the ink brush-heavy art style together.
Overall, it's recommend it. Considering the cape-centric market we're living in, it's nice to see a well told drama/suspense/thriller without a superhero in sight.
I was already a fan of the film 28 Days Later by Danny Boyle so Aftermath was an interesting read even before I picked it up. The story reveals the origin of the Rage virus and shows some of the early outbreaks that led up to the movie's events.
Steve Niles handles the scripting chores and does, well, an OK job. The story comes off mostly as script-by-numbers. After a slight twist on the virus' creation (considering its original intent), Niles doesn't really delve much deeper into the virus' effects. Instead you get the typical zombie flick survival tales. Let me explain...
Outside of being cheap to shoot for film, good zombie genre stories use the undead as a framework to explore characters in very dire situations. Some people freak out and do stupid things. Some people find their inner survivalist and do everything they can to stick around. But whether its zombies or Rage virus victims, they're just the background noise; the main characters are the lynchpin to the story's success. You have to care enough about the folks trying to survive. If not, it really doesn't matter if the heroes become undead appetizers. For example, Robert Kirkman's done a great job through his series, The Walking Dead. It's about the people, not the zombies. Aftermath IS about the people, but the people aren't very interesting. They're simply going through a zombie flick script on automatic. I know zombie apocalypse survival stories can also be strictly about scaring the shit out of the audience and tossing character development aside...but considering how director Danny Boyle reinvented the zombie film/genre with 28 Days Later AND considering the freedom the graphic novel format provides, I was hoping Niles would use the stories in Aftermath to make the 28 Days world that much more interesting.
As for the pretty pictures, Dennis Calero, Diego Almos, and Nat Jones handle the art chores. Almos's style seems a bit out of place, mostly because it's bookended by Calero's and Jones' photorealistic/referenced art styles. Tim Bradstreet did the cover and it fits perfectly with the film's poster design.
Overall, it's not that Aftermath is bad; I'm just saying it could have been better. It's an OK companion piece to 28 Days Later but the real excitment will hit May 11th with the release of 28 Weeks Later.