Writer/Artist: Ross Campbell
Plot: In the rural backwoods of Georgia, seventeen-year old Rylie begins to experience romantic feelings for her neighbor, Naomi. However, before either of the girls can begin their seemingly doomed relationship, they must first survive a deadly epidemic that turns everyone over the age of 18 into a blood-thirsty zombie.
Comments: Every so often, there comes along a graphic novel that is so strange, so unique, and so utterly brilliant that it almost complete defies conventions. Enter Ross Campbell's The Abandoned, a relatively recent work of sequential art that breathes new life into the already stagnant zombie genre with a flourish of literary style and adolescent angst.
Part love story, part coming of age tale, and, yes, part undead horror narrative, The Abandoned is the story of a young black woman named Rylie who lives with her catatonic father in the rural backwoods of Georgia. Desperately in love with her neighbor and friend, Naomi, Rylie desperately struggles to understand her burgeoning emotions.
This plot in itself would provide enough dramatic meat to make a great graphic novel or film, but Campbell cleverly adds in a rather interesting supernatural twist. It seems that in the midst of Rylie's everyday life, a strange disease begins to sweep across the nation--turning everyone over the age of 18 into the undead, who quickly begin devouring the underaged survivors in a relentless gore-splattered blood bath.
As both a plot device and an allegory for the disenfranchisement of today's youth, the zombies in The Abandoned are nothing short of inspired—and, with the exception of perhaps Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, is one of the few zombie comics out there with true originality. As Rylie and Naomi struggle to understand their feelings for one another, they're suddenly faced with hordes of hungry zombies, banning together with a group of fellow underaged survivors.
In addition to being the writer, Campbell also illustrates the graphic novel, and his artwork is refreshingly innovative. The horror of the undead and the introspective character driven moments are all brought to life with painstaking detail. Additionally, Campbell uses browns, grays, and dark colors to enhance the overall mood and thematic elements inherent to the book. What's more, the characters themselves are surprisingly realistic in terms of their physical features, particularly the somewhat fleshy female protagonists.
Campbell also demonstrates a rare ability to bring forth subtle emotional details through his characters expressions. When the book does deviate from the muted, dark color tones, it is splashed with red as zombies tear apart their victims in a blood-soaked frenzy that will have Romero fans jumping for joy. The unique style has a slightly manga-esque quality to it, but it’s a far cry from the mech and giant eyes normally associated with TokyoPop.
The Abandoned is a pitch perfect graphic novel overlooked in a genre now cluttered with clichéd zombie books. Ross Campbell has created a masterpiece of sequential art that is both well written and illustrated. As an homage to the traditional elements associated with zombies, it is brilliant--and with its believable characters, dramatic teenaged undertones and its insightful allegorical commentary on modern society, it is simply unbeatable. A must read for fans of both the undead and contemporary adult graphic novels.
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