Atlantic Monthly Jun. 2021. 160p. ISBN 9780802158727. pap. $17. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Freelance journalist Zoe Meadows finds herself at ground zero of an apocalyptic pandemic. Not only is the antibiotic-resistant strain of erysipelas traced back to a massive outdoor music festival she covered, but the epicenter is her best friends’ sausage-themed food truck, which Zoe had used as her base of operations while reporting. Luckily Zoe is an avowed vegetarian. McDermid’s (Still Life) first graphic novel is a re-working of a 2017 audio drama she created for BBC Radio. In the shadow of an actual pandemic, there are some aspects of this graphic novel that are remarkably prescient: conflicting government messaging, overwhelmed healthcare systems, and broken supply chains. McDermid’s extinction-level event is muted though; death tolls are recounted as statistics, and major character deaths happen off the page. This is especially jarring because graphic novels typically leap at the chance to gruesomely depict the end of the world. Briggs’s (Magpie) art transitions from quiet moments to surreal imagery, with characters becoming stained glass windows or medieval illuminations. She sometimes uses mixed media, drawing on medical forms and newspaper clippings to create stunning images that interrupt the narrative flow.
VERDICT Thought-provoking elements fail to cohere in this underwhelming graphic novel.
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