GRAPHIC NOVEL
Shaun of the Dead

Author: Chris Ryall (based on the screenplay by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright)
Artist: Zach Howard
Titan Books
RRP: 9.99
ISBN 1 84576 160 X
Available 25 November 2005


Shaun is a man lacking direction. Happy to sit around his filthy flat with his filthy flatmate Ed, his vision rarely extends further than the pub. But when his girlfriend Liz leaves him - and Britain is swept by a devastating plague of zombies - there's only one thing to do: get the girl, kill the zombies, and save the day! Assuming he can get off his backside, that is...

This graphic novel is billed as a "director's cut" adaptation of 2004's well-received British "rom-com-zom" movie. Shaun creators Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (the people who brought us Spaced) have overseen the project, and the comic's writer Chris Ryall has worked in scenes that never made it on to the big screen.

The humour of the piece comes across pretty much intact - though this is decidedly adult humour and definitely not for kiddies. I was laughing out loud after only the second page, on which the arcade-game-playing Ed's expletive utterances punctuate Liz's attempt to discuss her relationship with Shaun. This is an American adaptation, though, so it is strange to see US spellings in such a British narrative.

Zach Howard's art is heavily inspired by Philip Bond and Jamie Hewlett (Atomtan, Deadline), and as such suits the tone of the story down to the ground. Only a vague attempt has been made to match the likenesses of the actors in the movie. Rather, Howard seems to have taken the approach of accentuating the appearances of the characters rather than the actual actors who played them. Therefore, while Ed, Liz and Philip appear recognisably like their screen counterparts played by Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield and Bill Nighy, and Shaun himself resembles Simon Pegg, though with a fuller beard, David and Dianne look nothing like Dylan Moran and Lucy Davis. In fact, it's almost as though the graphic novel came first and the film came second, with actors cast to fit the look of the characters in the comic strip.

The zombies of Shaun of the Dead remain true to those of George A Romero's seminal Dead saga, from which Pegg and Wright drew their inspiration. The creatures are slow, clumsy and self-replicating, and the only means of killing them are to destroy their brains or behead them. Their sluggish movements provide plenty of comic potential, including a scene in which Shaun and Ed futilely hurl various household objects at the approaching undead, and have ample time to stop and argue about which records from Shaun's vintage vinyl collection are dispensable. In the comic, we now get the added humour of sound effects such as "SPA-TONG!" Comparisons made between zombies and everyday commuters, shoppers and workers also contain a heavy dose of Romero's sly brand of social commentary.

This is a dead good adaptation of a bloody (very bloody) great movie.

Richard McGinlay

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