Tuesday, June 28, 2011

28 Days Later: London Calling (2010)

28 Days Later... was a major force in taking zombies mainstream after decades on the fringe, for which it deserves much credit and blame. It was essentially a greatest hits collection of moments from the Romero films mashed up with Lifeforce, which often irked me, but was quite good at times. Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead straight up ripped off 28...'s opening, and I'm sure machete swinging Selena had a lot to do with the creation of katana-wielding Michonne. I guess 28 Days Later... expected payback for one of its few original spins, and decided to bring Selena to Dead's medium.

The first issue with translation is that Danny Boyle's film sold out Selena in the third act, turning her into a damsel in distress to be rescued by Jim as part of his heroic arc. Michonne has never been compromised, even during her rape and torture, so she remains the more fearsome and intriguing character. Second, sequelitis strikes. The comic alludes to events from the first film, and the assumption is that the film's other survivors aren't back for a reason that goes unrevealed. Maybe tragic, maybe mundane, but you can't help wondering where Newt and Hicks are. Third, as referenced, Selena is less herself and more Ellen Ripley. The pragmatist that would chop up her own friends once infected seems to have as her motivation for returning to England a lost love and need for psychological closure. I'm just not buying that. It would have been easy to carry on in England with the film's survivors, since there was room in the conclusion for such elaboration. While I think it's great to have a black woman as the lead figure in an action-horror franchise, I cannot buy into the premise that Selena would willingly put herself back in such a harrowing situation, especially given the stakes and slight resources displayed here.

The scenario put forth is that Selena has been hired as a veteran contributing to an unauthorized investigative party led by a war correspondent looking for the truth about the situation in the U.K. The party consists of barely realized stereotypes: the naive bleeding heart unprepared for the horrors to come, the dismissive tough guy who can't follow the little lady's orders, the member with a personal grudge against our heroine, and the intrepid reporter who puts principles above practicality. You know these fuckers are going to be ground up like the meat they are in short order, and the emotional impact is about the same as prepping a hamburger. Selena has plenty of opportunity to be the know-it-all badass, and she looks especially cool when the light catches the lens on her face mask just so, but it's strictly tropes around here.

By the end of the first trade, which collects four issues for ten bucks, all the pieces are in place to do a long form return visit to the physical journey of the first film. The hurdles of characterization and logic have been overcome so that one of the same characters can do the same stuff again. A desired status quo is restored. If you want your zombie comics to feel like super-hero or action vehicles, the creators do a serviceable job of providing. If you want to supplement The Walking Dead with more conventional writing and art on glossy paper in full color, here you go. The covers by Tim Bradstreet and Sean Phillips are also rather nice. Just don't expect to feel anything while going through the motions.

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