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Graphic Novel Review: Ross Campbell’s The Abandoned

The cover of Ross Campbell's zombie graphic novel The Abandoned (Tokyopop) provides a small double-take moment for the reader. It features the book's heroine, punkishly coiffed Rylie, holding what first looks to be a bloody bludgeon, blood spattered on her shoulder and around her pierced lower lip. It takes several seconds for the reader to register that the "weapon" Rylie's holding is a gore-dripping toilet plunger. When you're in the midst of an unexpected zombie attack, you use what tools are at hand.

A well-paced and grisly example of survival horror, The Abandoned is printed in digest form like the bulk of Tokyopop's comics series. I'm reluctant to use the OEL (Original English Language) label on this book, because unlike a more clearly manga-indebted series like Peach Fuzz, Campbell's art appears wholly western-influenced: we see none of the manga visual conventions that OEL artists are fond of inserting into their work (a sudden single-panel shift into ultra-cartoonishness, for instance). In look, Campbell's work is closer to a mainstream small-press series like Kirkman's Image zombie title, The Walking Dead than, say, Reiko the Zombie Shop.

Both Campbell's and Kirkman's titles set the start of their undead infestations in Georgia (Abandoned opens up on an island town outside Savannah, while Dead starts up outside Atlanta), interestingly, though I'm not sure that there's any thematic resonance in this fact – except to note that early island-set zombie stories frequently contained a racial or class-based subtext that the southern setting can't help recalling.

In The Abandoned, the living/undead divide is set along age lines: our beleaguered survivors are all post-teen or younger, while the first ravenous zombies we're shown are the tottering inhabitants of a nursing home. (This is the first work I can recall to give us the image of a zombie riding a battery-powered scooter.) Two members of our band of survivors, we learn, have birthdays within three days of each other – and, though we're only given the vaguest hint of the precipitating factors behind adult zombification, we still wait to see what'll happen when they each reach those magic days.

Our main guide through the new zombie apocalypse is Rylie, a zaftig young black woman (age not given) who works in an ice cream shop managed by a wide-eyed, full-breasted blonde named Nicole. Rylie, we're told by the text on the back of the book, is a "big-hearted volunteer by day, unruly rocker by night," but we're never really shown any concrete instances of the latter beyond her punk-rock garb and hairdo. Rylie divides her time 'tween working at I Scream, volunteering at the nursing home, caring for her aged father and mooning after a girlfriend-to-be named Naomi. It's a full life, but apocalypses have a way of messin' with the ways we'd rather be spending our time.

This particular end of the world opens with a hurricane that shares the same name (though with a slightly different spelling, she hastens to add) as our heroine: the storm brings something on land which wipes out most of the adult population. Initially, Rylie is childishly excited by the possibility of a 100-mile-an-hour hurricane, but once she has to start coping with its real after-effects, it's a different story. (You get a sense that Campbell is tweaking his young readership here: at another point in the book, a character chides Rylie by saying, "Thought you wanted a zombie invasion," making it clear that she's openly fantasized about such an occurrence in the past.)

She and a small band of young survivors (we don't see any other living young folks) – Nicole and her younger sister Cammie, recently busted-up lovers Ben & John, plus surly chain-smoking acquaintance Mae – leave the island to hook up with Naomi in the city. Once there, the group hides in an upstairs apartment.

About Bill Sherman

Bill Sherman is a Books editor for Blogcritics. With his lovely wife Rebecca Fox, he has co-authored a light-hearted fat acceptance romance entitled Measure By Measure.
  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!