"28 Days Later: Volume 3 - Hot Zone" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Michael Alan Nelson
Illustrated by Leonardo Manco and Declan Shalvey
2011, 114 Pages
Trade Paperback released on March 1st, 2011
After barely escaping with her life, Selena has returned to England. She's pushed along by a dwingdling team of journalists. Clint Harris, the leader of the bunch, is caught in a tough position as he wants to get this story, but his best friend and colleague Derrick is now blind due to an earlier boat explosion. It's going to be very difficult to get a blind man through this terrain, let alone past the Infected. They decide to set out and are joined by Douglas, a young man that they saved in the previous volume. They stumble upon a group of American soldiers that are capturing infected people for study.
It's in this volume, Hot Zone, that the 28 Days Later comic starts to head towards 28 Weeks Later. The book is bridging the gap between the two films and now we're starting to see the first bits from the sequel. What's incredibly interesting is that the Americans aren't looking for a cure. They're looking to perfect the virus. What's better than a horde of rage-filled psychopaths that want nothing more than to tear people apart? Ones that you can control, of course.
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In addition to all this, someone is looking for Selena specifically. If I had to guess, I'd say it was the soldier in charge of the army folk from the film. He's heard that she's in the area and he wants revenge. That's my theory anyway.
The artwork in Hot Zone is split between Leonardo Manco and Declan Shalvey. Manco handles the first chapter while Shalvey takes care of the final three. They have different styles, but they both work well with the story. Manco's pencils have a bleak look to them. There are some choice shots throughout the book where you really get the sense of how alone and desperate these people are. Shalvey really makes 28 Days Later his own though, right from the opening shot of his first issue, which shows the characters sprawled out atop a pile of the dead.
There are some excellent uses of page breaks too. The turn of the page is the comic book version of the jump scare. There's a scene where Derrick wanders out into the woods to pee and stops just shy of a hole in the ground. That's scary enough but turn the page and you get a closeup of an Infected glaring up at him...and yes, also covered in urine. There's also a really great page spread where Selena is forced to watch someone become infected. This could have been handled several different ways, but Shelvey shows it in a group of sporadic thumbnails, each depicting a detail of the transformation. Selena's distraught face is in the center with all of this revolving around her.
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The introduction of the American soldiers is a nice twist, but 28 Days Later feels like it's struggling to find its path. We know where it has to end up thanks to the films, but I'm still not convinced of the plot. Is the story really that important that Selena would venture back into England and come face to face with the terror that she worked so hard to escape? Based on the flashbacks that we're given to her life before the plague, maybe she's just looking for a way out of this world. Good thing for us she's planning on taking down as many Infected as she can along the way.