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SPILL ZONE’s Unanswered Questions Are Its Greatest Strength (Review)

SPILL ZONE’s Unanswered Questions Are Its Greatest Strength (Review)

The strength of Spill Zone, the new graphic novel by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland, is in what it doesn’t tell you. The book moves fast and lets you fill in the details instead of wallowing in them. A book like this could easily get bogged down trying to explain too many things, trying to make sense of the horrors, but Westerfeld and Puvilland only give you enough to information to turn the page. They constantly leave you wanting more in the best possible way.

The story of the Spill Zone centers on two orphans living outside of a town that suffered a catastrophic event. The exact ins and outs of this accident are unknown, but something was spilled and horrors have been unleashed. The town’s former residents float around like they are suspended on invisible meathooks and strange, possessed creatures roam the streets. The town is cut off and abandoned, stuck within a perimeter set up by the army. Nothing is allowed in or out.

This is where the book’s main character, Addie, comes in. Armed with a camera, she rides her motorcycle into the Spill Zone and captures images of the horrors, and occasional beauties, that now inhabit the town. She sells these pictures to collectors and uses the cash to support herself and her sister. It’s dangerous work, but you get the sense that Addie is drawn to it.

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The mysteries of the Spill Zone stay mysteries. The writer Scott Westerfeld is more concerned with characters, and Spill Zone is stronger for it. It’s enough to know that Addie lost everything (except for her younger sister) in the disaster that created the Spill Zone. While this is only the first book in a planned series, it’d be just fine if we never found out the exact details of the incident. That’s not what the story is about; it’s about survival and family. It gets more complicated as the book carries on–a small enchanted doll certainly adds a big wrinkle–but at the core, Spill Zone remains about Addie and her sister.

Alex Puvilland’s contributions to the graphic novel cannot be understated. The artwork in Spill Zone is exciting and kinetic as Puvilland crafts action scenes that leap off the page. Seeing Addie race through the streets on her motorcycle all the while pursued by a giant wolf demon is intense. It’s vibrant and exciting, even in the book’s quietest moments.

The colors are stunning throughout, as well. The contrast between the normal world and the world of the Spill Zone is shocking. Things go from dark, solid colors as Addie navigates the outside world to insanely vivid and bright hues when she travels into restricted areas. Everything becomes laced with yellow and there’s a glow to the page, evoking the sense that something is not quite right. The colors elevate the story and bring Puvilland’s art to life in a magnificent fashion.

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Spill Zone is an absolute must read. It’s a brilliant work of art that is easily one of this year’s best comics. Engaging, exciting, and mysterious, this comic will consume you. You don’t just read it, you experience it. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, you won’t regret it. In a day and age when everything is picked apart and over explained, Spill Zone relishes in the unknown, and that’s something that should be celebrated.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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Images: First Second Books

Benjamin Bailey writes for the Nerdist and can be found on Twitter talking about Godzilla, comic books, and hardcore music.

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