Sunday, September 30, 2018

Shaun of the Dead #2


Halloween 2018 Post-A-Day: Day 1
Horror-ible and Tie-ins
Shaun of the Dead #2



One of my all-time Favorite movies gets an adaptation

"Part 2”
Screenplay – Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright
Adaptation – Chris Ryall
Artist – Zach Howard
Colorist – Thompson Knox
Letterer – Robbie Robins
Editor – Dan Taylor
July 2005


Shaun of the Dead is one of those perfect movies. It hits all the right story beats, combines comedy, drama, and horror in an effective manner, visually stimulates with carefully crafted and timed shots that underpin the tale in interesting way, and it’s British.

I unreservedly love this movie.

Happening across this adaption of it in the bargain bin made for moments of giddy finger-wiggling followed by minutes of worried trepidation as I added it to my stack of pulls. The problem with loving a property this much is that translating it between mediums is a tricky business. Following the property in a slavish manner can end up draining the energy and life from the work. Allowing a writer or artist to skew too far afield from the work and you run the risk of creating something derivative and unsatisfying.

What I’m stating here is that adapting a movie to a comic is a tightrope walk.

Luckily this one appears to be in the capable hands of Chris Ryall and the art stylings of Zach Howard. Underneath that gorgeous Jason Brashill cover lurks enough of the energy and vibe that drove the hit motion picture while containing enough of the story beats timed in such a way that the issue neither drags nor skips ahead. They got this one right.

Before we jump in to our story in progress, I have to admit to a bit of sadness at missing the first issue of this in my swim through the bins. The first part of Shawn of the Dead contains the setup for the dynamics between the characters, a truly masterful thing that is the heart and soul of the flick.

Anyone can make a zombie movie. It takes the brilliance of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright to make a zombie movie where you care about the characters like they are your own dysfunctional family. Heartbreak, humor, and horror seldom get to share screentime, and when they do it rarely entertains to the level that Shaun of the Dead succeeds at.

This is the point in the review where if you haven’t seen the movie you stop what you are doing and go watch it. Even if you have, go watch it again. Heck, I’m going to do that myself right now.

Okay, that was still GREAT! On with the review…

In Crapbox usual fashion, we’ve arrived 25 minutes into the showing with this issue 2 start off. I can only assume that issue one took the time to meticulously setup each character dynamic, from Shaun’s troubled relationship to his step-father Phillip, his co-dependent bromance with his chunky, bad-influence roommate Ed, their mutual dislike of their stuck-up (yet entirely reasonable) roommate Pete, Shaun’s going-no where romance with the love of his life Liz, etcetera, etcetera…

All of this is really key to the evolution and climax of each piece of the story. The kicker to this is that this is Pegg and Wright’s second go round with some of the same elements, having filmed a somewhat similar script in the British series Spaced called “Art.” The pair refined that premise with new characters for Shaun and the result is perfection itself. But those setups and tiny asides make the emotional and comedic beats work in the latter part of the movie, so their inclusion is absolutely essential to creating the story’s foundation.

I’m going to assume they were there and go forward.

Shaun and Ed are recouping from both a night of drinking, smoking, playing video games and listening to tunes AND from having encountered a single zombie (who they first mistake as a drunk until she impales herself and survives) in their backyard. Being unable to contact police for help, the pair sit down to watch the news and consider their options.



I have got to give a shout out before we go too far in…Zach Howard was perfect for this project. There is a hint of Mike Mignola inspiration to his work that I love but his facial expressions sell this translation more than anything. Look at these two loveable morons trying to figure out their next steps in surviving a zombie apocalypse. All the little details here are so perfectly picked up, from the clutter on the table to the Rollins band poster to the zombies safely locked out of the house…



…or make that not so safely…




The answer is to carry out an odd assortment of rando household objects and hurl them into the faces of the oncoming undead. Love that we get a panel showing the quick shot of the basket hitting the ground and their hands going in. Again, this is props to Howard for intently getting the elements in the movie that provide momentum. The book correctly translates as much as it can the fast-paced style that make Wright movies so much fun.



And this bit here with zooming in on Ed’s eye as a translation of the quick pan that Wright would use…you couldn’t ask for much better framing. And of course the record…



…staggers the fat one,…



…leading to one of the funniest bits in the film. And the book.

But funny or not, that doesn’t do much to stop the undead’s advance and the pair are forced to break into the shed to retrieve a more up close and personal approach to dealing with the problem.



Again the book manages to do the impossible, which is to capture some of Wright’s energy and action with still art. It even does it in such a way that the “You’ve got red on you.” joke that follows has a bit of that wry humor.



And then we get treated to the pair trying to decide what to do about Pete, who from last issue was bitten and went upstairs to lie down. Ed wants to just go up and check on him. Shaun doesn’t because he might be 1.) dead and 2.) possibly still annoyed with them for playing loud music all night.

The pair leave without checking on him, deciding he’s not in. Ed offers Shaun a cig, which Shaun declines because of…



Liz! who Shaun tries to call and it setups Ed for that bit above which shouldn’t work for American audiences yet totally does anyway.

As I’m whipping along here you have to understand that it is with a very favorable opinion of both the source material and this adaptation. Had I been collecting these during a monthly pull, it is highly likely the nostalgia factor would have me sitting down each month after reading one to re-watch the movie again. I can’t think of better praise to both mediums than that. They are both so well done that you want to waste more time here enjoying both of them.

Oh, and while Shaun tries to get in touch with Liz, his mum calls through. Love how the panels give each joke a chance to shine…



…and Ed quoting “Night of the Living Dead” can NEVER be topped in my opinion. 



And the plan is…pretty much an amazing page all by itself.



First things first, the boys have to get to the car…



…after Shaun does a little WC visit…



…which ends a bit prematurely as Shaun finds a naked zombie Pete in the shower…



…yet in the rush out the door, the book still finds a way to fit in the absurd horror of the situation by giving us one long stare from Shaun. Good stuff, this.

The arrival at Barbara and Philips (along with the accidents that happen before and after) are all faithfully captured…




…but first a bit that shines with the interpersonal relationships and conflicts between Shaun and his mum…



And Shaun and his stepdad…



Look at that stance Howard gives Shaun as he strides into the living room, cricket bat at the ready. And the facial expressions are so well done in this. As are the ones in this next bit where Shaun fails to kill Phillip.



And then tries to explain his issues with Phillip over the years to his mum, including a not very well thought out lie to convince her to leave Phillip behind, something she won’t have any part of.



Which of course leads us to everyone ending up outside where Edward has “pranged” the car…



…and Phillip gets a second, more quickly fatal bite…



…that is just as bloody and gory as the film version.



Next stop, is Liz’s where, after dispatching a lone walker…




Shaun climbs to her apartment to find she has guests.

But he quickly convinces them that he has a plan for keeping them all safe…



And that plan means…



Of course it does. Thus ends issue 2.

And possibly all of you haven’t made it this far because this is so well done that it will make you yank out your blu ray copies and pop them in. I agree, but check out the rest of this series as they’ve apparently done a top-notch job of adapting it.

Oh, and you’ve got red on you.

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