Pitch Me: 28 Days Later, the comic
28 Days Later is kind of a big deal.
Released in 2002, it was at least midwife, if not mother to the zombie genre’s latest rebirth. It’s a master class in post-apocalyptic horror fiction, exploiting the silence of post-human Britain to the utmost, and introducing the fast-moving, purposeless infected. The infected aren’t the walking dead, and they aren’t mystical punishment for our collective sins. They aren’t even particularly evil. They’re just regular humans who’ve been infected with a manufactured ‘rage’ virus, released into the populace by some well-meaning, radical animal rights activists.
I think it’s safe to say that the infected are a running, screaming, consuming, metaphor for the confusion of the digital age.
In 2007 we got a sequel, 28 Weeks Later, exploring the ‘repatriation’ of post-infected Britain. Having eaten their way through the non-infected populace, the infected have ostensibly died off, and NATO has decided to take back the island. It doesn’t go well.
The 28 Days Later comics bridge the gap between the two movies. Initial reviews weren’t good. The series gets off to a rocky start, but once it settles in, it’s good stuff. 28 Days Later is part quest, and part ghost story. It never gets out of the shadow of the first film, but that’s an intentional choice—unanswered questions, missing persons, and the dead, haunt this series in equal measure.
Jim: How did you know? I mean, how did you know he was infected?
Selena: The blood.
Jim: Yeah… but there was blood everywhere. It was on me, it was on you —
Selena: Look, I didn’t know he was infected, okay? He knew. I could see it in his face. Look, if someone gets infected you’ve got between ten and twenty seconds to kill them. It might be your brother or your sister or your oldest friend. It makes no difference. And just so you know where you stand — if it happens to you, I’ll do it in a heartbeat.
While the movie was Jim’s story, the comic is Selena’s.
Sometime after the events of the movie, we are reunited with Selena, who is now living alone in a Norwegian refugee camp. She’s approached by a group of American journalists, who want her to guide them through post-infected Britain, to London, before the then-rumoured repatriation begins. The film’s survivors, Selena, Jim and Hannah, are now famous—the Manchester Three—and the ruthless Selena, is their only hope. Jim and Hannah are… unavailable. While at first reluctant, Selena agrees to return to Britain for reasons of her own. The exploration of those reasons is as much a driver of the series, as is reaching London.
All 24 issues of 28 Days Later are written by Michael Alan Nelson, while a number of different artists worked on the book. Their styles have enough in common, and the changeover’s are neatly timed, though, that 28 Days can be read as a seamless whole. Declan Shalvey (1-4, 6-8, 10-12) and Alejandro Aragon (13-16, 18-20, 22-24) anchor the series, while Malek Oleksicki (5), Leonardo Manco (9), Ron Salas (17), and Pablo Peppino (21) contribute single, fill-in issues. Even when the art isn’t great, it’s on point. It’s universally grim—there’s always the suggestion of something lurking in that corner, over that hill—with an emphasis on the natural, over the supernatural. 28 Days is more interested in the people, than in the monsters. Art-wise, the biggest selling point is of course, Ben Templesmith’s arresting covers. Selena is front and center, in all her machete-wielding glory.
The story is full of references to and riffs on not just 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, but other post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s depressing and hopeful, beautiful and terrible, and absolutely Selena. Who is, without doubt, one of the great horror heroines of the last decade.
28 Days Later is complete, and collected in both hardcover and trade paperback. I had no problem picking up the trades, as they’re widely available for your horror comics delectation, at both comic and regular bookstores.