George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead #1 Review

Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: N/A

Adaptation by: Steve Niles
Art by: Chee
Colored by: Tom B. Long
Lettered by: Robbie Robins
Editor: Jeff Mariotte
Publisher: IDW Publishing

First off, I want to make it clear that this comic is based on the original George Romero film Dawn of the Dead not the recently released remake. That’s not meant as a sleight to the remake which was a damn good film in its own right, and will also have a comic adaptation soon enough. It’s just something that could be confusing, as it’s not usual for a 25 year old property to get the adaptation treatment, especially at the same time a remake is in theatres. In fact, I find it to be a very weird direction to go from a marketing standpoint, as it’s going to confuse some people. Of course, that’s not my worry, and I must admit to being excited to see a comic based on one of my favorite films.

This comic is a tough one for me to review. Firstly, as I stated above, the original Dawn of the Dead is in my top two or three films of all-time. George Romero was at his satiric best with the film, and the cast of characters and the mall setting were a perfect view of life in the 1970s. The film was an utter cornucopia of gore, but that never detracted from the characters and their struggle to survive. Romero’s message against the dangers of consumerism makes the film far more than a blood-fest, and that message and the characters are the reason why the film is a classic and not the gore!

I must say, film-to-comic adaptations are almost always failures. It is a nearly impossible task to translate a two hour film into a comic without losing an enormous amount of detail. Often, the major action sequences can be translated with reasonable accuracy, but the more dramatic moments and characterization fall by the wayside. As I mentioned, Dawn of the Dead is a classic because of the characters and the moments that they go through, the blood and violence are there, but never really the focus. That’s the one place where I think this adaptation goes wrong.

The theatrical cut of Dawn is 2 hours and 7 minutes long, and this comic series, planned out as three issues, seems a little light on page count. On a whole, the adapter, Steve Niles, does an admirable job, in the first issue, of setting up the characters and this world gone amok with a zombie plague. The comic is a faithful recreation of George Romero’s film, going as far as to have the vast majority of the dialogue directly lifted from the film. Niles has given us all of the important moments from the film, and gotten us to the mall, the central location of the film, at the end of issue #1. I really couldn’t ask for anything more on the writing end than what we got here.

The area that I was not as impressed with was the art. First, I feel that way too much time is wasted on blood and guts. The point behind much of the story is lost to gruesome shots of the brains and jawbones flying around. So much focus is on these heads flying off and other gore that much of the humanity is lost. Sure, you might say that the film is that way too! But, again, the film goes way beyond this, the comic, unfortunately, does not!

Where Chee’s stuff really fails me, though, is the execution of the visual look of the story itself. This is supposed to be a film adaptation, which would imply to me some attempt to maintain a good portion of the look of the film it’s based on. There are some elements here that are right out of the movie, but as a whole, this looks nothing like the film I love.

I am not sure whether there were any hang-ups over getting approvals from the actors involved, but these renderings look nothing like the four protagonists, Roger, Peter, Steven, and Fran. They look like the blandest representations you could possibly do of the four, and they look downright evil in most of the shots. These are supposed to be normal people, not mad scientists! It goes further, the locations, especially the airport and the mall, are generic and nothing like the film inspirations. I’m not saying I want to see photo quality reproductions of the old settings in painstaking detail, but I cannot get past the generic look that the book has been saddled with.

I don’t want to seem like I hated the art, because that’s simply not the case. Chee puts forth a nice visual story. It’s just not Dawn of the Dead. Often, the artist for a film-comic adaptation has not seen the film, and must base his artwork on a handful of still photos of the work. Considering this flick’s 26 years old, I can’t see that as a reasonable excuse.

I give everyone involved credit for bringing this story to life. This was certainly one of the better film adaptations that I have read. Yet, I can’t really recommend this book to anyone but a fan of Dawn of the Dead. There’s absolutely no comparison to the comic adaptation and the powerful film. This wasn’t even the best zombie related story this week—that would go to the brilliant Image Comics series The Walking Dead! All told, though, this is a pretty damn good comic, it just fell a little short.