Zomedies or Zombie-comedies seemed to be all the rage these days in an attempt to try different things with the zombie genre. I’ve been screaming for a real good, horrific serious zombie movie for a long time. I was a little disappointed with several, so I went and checked out graphic novels instead. I was pleased with “Zombies A Record of the Year of Infection” and now, I became incredibly pleased with writer Ross Campbell’s “THE ABANDONED”. It is a wonder as to how a name like “Ross Campbell” be a writer/artist under a publication called “TokyoPop”? Not to worry, what’s in a name right? It is an American creation of a manga.
Well, I’ll tell it to you straight-up--if you are looking for a social commentary with black humor and an abundance of blood and gore, then , “The ABANDONED” is for you!
Rylie is a kind-hearted rocker who works at an ice cream shop called “I Scream” who also volunteers at an senior home when time allows. She is well-liked by the folks in the small island town of Buffalora and she is quite sweet with the new girl in town, Naomi. Romance is blossoming between the two. Their island-town is the kind that hardly anything ever happens as folks just go around their daily routine. But unfortunately, for Rylie and the residents of the town, this is one of the days when something messed up happens as the adults die and quickly rise from the dead; seeking to devour the flesh of the youth and the hope for society. Rylie and Naomi must band together with their friends Ben, Mae, Nicole, John and Cammie to survive--locking themselves up in a small house and using Ben’s truck to get supplies. But are they the last human survivors on this earth or were they simply abandoned?
Ross Campbell’s set ups are honestly quite full of the usual stereotypes and cliché that has plagued the zombie genre for many years. But, what makes it different is exactly how he executes those clichés. A Small group of people trapped in an enclosed space with flesh-eating zombies outside has been done with “Night of the Living Dead” and other zombie movies; hell, even the approach of a social commentary has been done many times. Campbell does inject a great commentary about the aged and the youth, as to how sometimes, the old envy the young because of the years ahead of them and how some dreams go unfulfilled. If you are looking for a George Romero commentary, then it is here with the writer’s own personal approach.
I guess what made me like “The Abandoned” is the way the story makes you care about its characters. Chapter one goes about the introduction of its lead characters; as we read about the interactions of Rylie and her friends. This is one crazy ice cream shop (with a name like “I Scream”) as the employees interact among themselves as well as with customers. The dialogue is well-written although it can be argued that it would not be for everyone. There is quite a lot of profanity as the characters exhibit their different personalities and behavior. This is where Campbell succeeds where most zombie stories fail; he manages to define each character and makes them very REAL. There is real honesty in the dialogue that I was able to connect with them. The characters are strong and they felt very human; with complex issues and hopes that we could easily relate to. I also liked the fact that the book had a lot of dialogue, the panels were smaller than your usual American modern age comic books (splash pages) as it felt a lot longer.
Now don’t think that the manga is all about a serious tone. It is serious in its human approach but Campbell is so methodical in his injection of black humor. C’mon, you see an ice cream shop called “I Scream” so of course you know that the manga has a lot of humor going for it. Ben seems to be a homage to “Night of the Living Dead’s” “Ben” and the supermarket scene may be a tribute to “Dawn of the Dead”. I was really cracking up when Mae goes “”I ain’t fightin’ zombies for f***in’ sesame sticks”. There are scenes where they pee through a fire escape with metal bars on zombies’ heads, there is a busty woman who dons a tiny t-shirt that says “I wish these were brains”, the way to kill a zombie is with the use of a frying pan and a plunger, a zombie with a cart and even a walker. Campbell does play all the cards right and I was really entertained with the read as I thought I was in a Tarantino directed zombie flick.
The manga is also extremely violent as the art uses a sepia-like tone but becomes bright red when blood is around and dark in the night scenes. The zombie dinner buffet is pretty graphic as I can tell that Campbell is a fan of blood and a lot of gore. Entrails, innards, and tissue are chewed on by our zombie antagonists. There is also partial nudity in the book as some shirts are a little in the ‘see-thru” side and most the characters are illustrated in their underwear during the night (This I thought was a little much seeing as one needs to be prepared to leave on a whim, jeans are more advisable). The manga also has some girl-on-girl action that can make male testosterone rise to dangerous levels. (not so much since they’re just art)
I guess if “The Abandoned” had a flaw is the fact that it can be a little predictable. I guess zombie tales always have to fall to the elements of isolation and the fear of being left behind. This is not a negative comment but rather an observation. I really don’t mind a simple formula as long as the writer knows where he wants to go and makes use of its aces very well--and Ross Campbell does know where he wants his creation. It boasts of strong characters, great dialogue and a touch of humanity and realism that gave the comic a ‘slice of real life’; it also has a social commentary to keep things interesting. Campbell manages to inject subtle black humor and horror elements in one excellent package!
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
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