Home > IDW Publishing > Shaun of the Dead #1

Shaun of the Dead #1

July 17, 2005

Review by Blake M. Petit & Andrea Speed
Quick Rating: Good; Good

The “zom-rom-com” in comic form. (Does that make it a zom-rom-com-com?)

Writer: Chris Ryall (Based on the screenplay by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright)
Art: Zach Howard
Colors: Thompson Knox
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Dan Taylor
Cover Art: Jason Brashill
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Blake: Shaun of the Dead was, simply put, one of my favorite movies of 2004 – a genuine zombie fight-fest with enough gags and laughs to elevate it to a totally different level than most zombie flicks. So when I heard that IDW was doing an adaptation, how could I possibly resist?

Andrea: I too liked the film a lot, although I saw it more as a dark comedy than a true horror film, although many good films ride that line. (Evil Dead series – although number one not so much – Dead/Alive, An American Werewolf In London, Ginger Snaps, and from here on I get more obscure, so I’ll stop.) If you don’t have a little comedy with your horror, it sometimes seems a bit laughable, so the most of the good films have a little cheek.

Blake: This is a pretty straight-up adaptation. The story begins in a standard British pub as Shaun discusses the state of his relationship with his girlfriend, Liz. Their friends butt in, Shaun’s fear of commitment takes root, and plans are made. All the while, of course, our heroes are unaware that a plague of zombies are slowly growing across the British countryside.

The comic does a pretty good job of adapting the film. The various jokes, even the sight gags, translate surprisingly well to the comic. The basic conceit here is that we’ve got a few characters trapped in a zombie movie that are almost self-aware of that fact, behaving the way that the audience in the film usually does. And it works almost as well on the page as it does in the film. The only real downside to the story is that, except for a few extra snippets of dialogue, there isn’t much else in the story that we didn’t have in the film, no real additions yet, nothing to add an extra layer, which is what you have to hope for in an adaptation to make it worthwhile.

Andrea: I was shocked at how truly faithful an adaptation it was. It does seem to add little hints of the deleted scenes from the DVD (if you have that), but not so much in this first issue, so if you haven’t seen the movie, this could save you a rental fee. Yet, while it’s almost rigidly faithful to the film, it’s also a pleasant step up from most comic adaptations, which range from vague (a few details are right, but save for the main thrust of the plot everything is glossed over), to utterly, jaw droppingly appalling (Elektra and Fantastic Four come to mind – but I can’t say if those were actually correct adaptations as I have seen neither film). This one sticks to the source material, and therefore is entertaining. I must say, though, one or two sight gags were missing, but probably weren’t considered vital enough or funny enough to keep, and this has been a bit Americanized, but only in a helpful way – “Cornetto” has become “ice cream”, on the assumption most Americans don’t know what a Cornetto is. And we don’t. (It’s basically a Drumstick ice cream cone, just given another name.) Still, it’s as gloriously profane and suddenly violent as the movie itself, the blokes slackers with varying ranges of apathy (at least Shaun has a job – a stagnant job – and a girlfriend; Ed doesn’t even try), which I see as a good thing in this context. It does make for a hell of an entertaining comic.

Blake: The artwork is very good. Howard’s style is well-suited for a zombie tale, but beyond that, he does a good job of capturing the specific looks of the various actors involved without getting so hyper-detailed that the artwork gets stagnant, which is frequently a problem with comic adaptations of movies and TV shows.

Andrea: I was especially impressed with his “Bloody Mary”, the first zombie the boys encounter up close and personal. She has just the right look about her, pale and off, and it’s extra funny that they don’t seem to realize she isn’t simply drunk. It’s closest in form to European style comic art, which is both appropriate and kind of ironic if you think about it. The coloring is nicely done, never too bright, almost too subtle at times, but leaving the audience wanting more is better than making scream “too much”.

Blake: This is a fun little book, and I’m glad I decided to jump on for these few issues. I just hope that they beef up the story a bit more as the series progresses.

Andrea: I agree. A good debut, but I hope this gives us a little more of the extended scenes as this series plays out. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get to see how Shaun escaped the zombies to return to the Winchester. (Yes, I watched those extras on the DVD.)

Rating: 7/10

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