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Reviews Wed May 18 2011
Quarantined, courtesy of writer Michael Moreci and artist Monty Borror, is an engaging read that deals with a plague outbreak in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that has symptoms akin to the tried and true zombie apocalypse scenario. However, aside from being a standard splatter fest, Quarantined is laced with enough mystery that it not only satisfies viscerally but also largely intellectually.
The easiest compliment to give this graphic novel is its effortless pacing. Weighing in at over 150 pages, Quarantined breezes by. Action scenes are peppered throughout but they don't dominate the show. Instead, proper attention is paid to the doings of the quarantined townsfolk in rural Michigan. This is aided by kicking off the narrative in media res.
Placing the action in a country setting is a breath of fresh air in the genre and harkens back to the papa bear of zombie flicks, George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Rather than stuff the survivors in an urban area, as many zombie tales are wont to do, Moreci structures his narrative in a forested and deserted stretch of land occasionally punctuated by specks of civilization. Borro's art style reinforces these feelings of isolation and abandonment by opting for a moody, atmospheric and stripped down art style that is light on background and solely focused on the moment.
Nevertheless, there are instances where I felt Moreci let slip a golden opportunity to further elevate the story. Literary references crop up in places, such as books read, character's names, philosophies expounded and even where the survivors shack up, a library of all locales. Yet, these references are very superficial as in they are never capitalized on. The reader is pointed towards anticipating a more literary zombie tale but the groundwork laid is scarcely excavated. Perhaps these touchstones would have resonated more strongly if greater attention was paid to highlighting the tension between the literary foundations of the story and the pressing reality of the characters' struggles instead of focusing on side plots that are somewhat inconsequential to the overall narrative.
Aside from some sequential storytelling quirks and visual inconsistencies from Borro, the art helps sell many of the emotional triggers Moreci plays. Throughout the novel, the distinction between survivor and infected is visually muddled. The grayed color palette and lack of detail makes differentiating the two sometimes difficult. However, rather than chalking this up as a failure of the art, I feel it is entirely appropriate. These survivors are called upon to do some inhuman acts. Ultimately this calls into question the thin line that separates these two groups from each other, a theme which is played upon to good effect.
Despite a few missed opportunities, Quarantined is a fine first effort, and ends on a note of despair that seems sure to garner a sequel.