By Dustin Cabeal
Call me strange, but this book smells great. It’s why I’ll always be a print guy, I love the smell of ink and paper and let me tell you, Spill Zone smells great. I don't have anything else to follow that, but yeah... take it all in.
The story around Spill Zone is quite interesting. There was an event that changed a town leaving it uninhabitable. In a way, it’s as if a toxic event happened, but that even has left things like meat puppets, seemingly dead people that float. Cats that talk, rats that stack cheese and control territory. It’s a dangerous place and illegal to go inside.
Which of course introduces us to our main character Addison who makes a living by taking pictures of the spill zone and selling them on the black market. It’s the only way she knows how to make money to support herself and her sister. Her sister who hadn't spoken since they day of the accident and was in town when it happened. As the story goes on, we learn that her sister Lexa has a big secret from that day as well. Eventually, though, one of Addison’s buyers comes to find her and gives her a job in the zone… for another government.
The only real problem I have with this story is that it doesn’t have a solid conclusion. Granted it’s a book series as it says “to be continued” at the end, but every volume should stand on its own and have a rewarding conclusion. The endings not bad, hell, it will even make you want to read more, but there’s still a bit too much teased and not enough concluded.
As for the story though, the narration is very strong and controls the pace throughout. Usually, I don’t care for stories that lay out the rules for any particular thing. Especially in sci-fi as that means that they’re about to be broken. That doesn’t change here, but at least Addison as a character wasn’t always going on about her rules to the point that it broke her character’s logic when forced to abandon them. Lexa’s character isn’t quite fleshed out yet, we get a bit of her throughout, but not enough to appreciate what’s going on with her in the story. There are a few other minor characters introduced, and they’re handled quite well, and all have believable dialogue. That’s one thing that was nice about this YA sci-fi story, believable dialogue, and honest reactions.
The art does a lot of the heavy lifting for this story. Alex Puvilland brings Scott Westerfeld’s story to life. I don’t know if Puvilland also lettered the story, but the lettering played a huge part in humanizing the story. Back to the art itself, it was wonderful to look at all throughout (and that smell!). The panel layouts, in particular, were incredibly smart and made the story flow easily. The creepy designs made the town look and feel incredibly dangerous. Every fiber in my body said, “stay away from there” which I’m sure is exactly what the creative team wanted.
Lastly, the coloring from Hilary Sycamore amplifies everything from the story to the art. Sycamore’s coloring intensifies that creepy feeling, but also gives the town it’s entire presence and personality in the story. This book is as gorgeous as it is because of the coloring.
There will be more Spill Zone I’m sure, and I for one will be waiting to read more. This strange world only looks to get stranger and perhaps more dangerous. While the final act of this first book misses the mark some it’s otherwise, a great first installment to what I hope is an amazing and interesting new series.
Writer: Scott Westerfeld
Artist: Alex Puvilland
Colorist: Hilary Sycamore
Publisher: First Second Books