The Spill Zone
Writer: Scott Westerfeld
Artist: Alex Puvilland
Colourist: Hilary Sycamore
Publisher: First Second
A review by Stephanie Cooke
What IS The Spill Zone? No one really knows exactly, but in this story, we see a small town drastically affected by an accident that has wiped out nearly the entire population and has done who knows what to others. Animals, buildings, and other random objects aren’t immune to what has transpired, forcing the military to quarantine the town from the rest of the world.
Of course, there’s one person who manages to sneak past the guards and into the town where she risks her life to take photos of the strange things happening within the town since the accident. This girl sells the photos she takes to art collectors willing to pay exorbitant amounts to see the aftermath, using the money to take care her of her younger sister.
I was completely unprepared for how much I would enjoy The Spill Zone. The first collected volume is put out by First Second but was released originally (and currently) as a web comic. Friends of mine have sung the praises of Westerfeld for ages and now I can see the merit to their claims. The story is skillfully told and paced and manages to do that tricky thing where you desperately WANT answers but you don’t NEED them right away. The Spill Zone draws you in and makes you care for the characters so they’re your first priority. You want them to be okay and for them to get through whatever it is that’s happening. The rest of it, such as what’s actually happening and the larger picture, is wonderfully engaging as well making the whole thing utterly and completely worth reading.
I can’t say enough good things about the art by Alex Puvilland with colours by Hilary Sycamore. I can’t lump those two things together though because they’re separate pieces of praise-worthy material.
Puvilland knocks the line work out of the park. The characters, expressions, the whole look of the town, the altered beasties, and more are expertly crafted in a fantastically original and stylized way. Reading comics week after week shows all the typical comic book styles. To see something so original, something that is the artist’s own approach, is beyond refreshing.
The art so perfectly goes along with the story that it feels as though the whole book is just being done by one person. It’s not unheard of, obviously, but I feel like it’s hard to come across a multi-person creative team that manages to produce work that feels like it all came from one brain.
Now, the colours. Hilary Sycamore is an absolute artist and no one should say otherwise. I realize that she’s not an official co-creator of the series but it’s a damn shame that she’s not credited on the front of the book since she absolutely kills it. The last few years have seen colourists rise in the esteem of their peers and I genuinely feel like she deserves a credit here to let people know just how much the quality of the book rides on the atmosphere she’s built with her use of colour. She’s credited within the book, of course, but she should be on the cover along with Westerfeld and Puvilland.
Sycamore’s colours demand your attention and draw your eye to all the right places. Her palettes are a wide variety of bright colours that you wouldn’t think would work so wonderfully alongside a book about a horrific accident. However, they add to the magical element of the series and help to show the beauty behind even the worst tragedies.
I can’t find any credit for the letterer so I’m not sure if there’s one that isn’t listed or if Pullivand is responsible, but it should be noted that they’re masterfully done. They add an extra layer to the visuals of the story and set the tone and voices of the characters so vividly in my mind.
Just an all-round stellar job from this whole freaking team.
Buy it! Seriously, it took me by surprise how great The Spill Zone was. I unfortunately don’t have a ton of time to follow along faithfully with the web comic but this volume has convinced me that the collected editions are something that I want to follow and potentially pass along to friends whether they’re already into comic books or not.
The Spill Zone has no prior continuity that I’m aware of so jumping right in is easy for anyone to do. The story layouts are easy to follow, making it a perfect book for anyone who might be looking to try comics out for the first time.
Definitely invest in this series and take a chance with it. You won’t be sorry. The physical version of The Spill Zone hits store shelves on May 2, 2017.