Hello, my friends. The Halloween festivities have returned across the land, so it’s once again time for us to look at a particular horror-related series as we build up towards the glorious night of tricks, treats and soaring spirits throughout the nighttime skies. This time around, we’ll be arming ourselves with cricket bats, rifles and Cornetto ice cream because we’re celebrating the anniversary of a certain zom-com in this special series known as…
Following its London premiere on March 29, 2004, it got its official U.K. release on April 9 before eventually making its way to the U.S. on September 24. Made on a budget of $6.1 million and grossing over $30 million at the box office, it was the movie that put director Edgar Wright on the map, introduced several audience members to Simon Pegg & Nick Frost and ultimately served as the first entry in a series of stand-alone comedies known as the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. Despite the overwhelming success of this string of films, only this inaugural entry received any sort of comic book tie-ins.
In February 2005, IDW Publishing got the green light from the Universal Studios Consumer Products Group to create the four-issue adaptation as the inaugural part got its release in June and went on to sell 10,079 copies. IDW’s editor-in-chief Chris Ryall handled writing duties with Wright and Pegg supplying some input into the project. Zach Howard takes care of art duties while Thompson Knox helps out with the colors. Because it aims to serve as a “Director’s Cut” of the movie, I’ll bring up any notable inclusions and differences as we go along. As such, have a seat, cuddle up with a cup of tea or even a nice, cold pint and let’s blow over with what’s inside.
We open at the Winchester Tavern as Shaun is having a drink while his girlfriend Liz tells him that she doesn’t have any problem with his friend and housemate Ed (who’s also present with them). However, she would prefer to spend some alone time with her boyfriend. Because Ed has constantly been allowed to accompany them, she’s had to bring along her roommates (or flatmates as the British call it) David and Dianne to awkwardly balance it out. Shaun explains that Ed doesn’t have too many friends, but David tells him that he needs to spend some quality time with Liz. Dianne then asks about what they did for their anniversary, but Liz says that they ended up coming to the Winchester. She then expresses her desire to get more out of life before mentioning that she hasn’t even met Shaun’s mother yet. As such, he promises to set aside some time for her and that they’ll have dinner at a proper restaurant with him setting up a reservation.
We then cut to the next day (Saturday to be exact) as Shaun wakes up and joins Ed in a video game session (TimeSplitters, to also be exact), only to get reminded that he has to go to work today. As he gets ready, he’s met upon by his fellow housemate named Pete who complains about the front door being left open last night. He also voices his disapproval towards Ed who seemingly does nothing but lay around the house and sell weed, with the only positive trait that he likes from him is his hilarious orangutan impersonation. As such, Shaun tries to tell his friend about his annoying foibles, but Ed’s cell phone interrupts him as he gets a call about a potential drug buy. Pete then comes in and tells Ed to clean up & write down every single phone message that he receives, not just the ones for him, before he heads out. Ed then says that he refuses to comply with Pete, so Shaun has to ask his friend to do those tasks for him. From there, Ed proceeds to silently pass gas as Shaun ultimately smells the foul scent and laughs before heading out.
After a quick stop at Nelson’s mini-mart where he sees some newspapers mentioning about some recent mutilations followed by a bus ride where he passes by a citizen falling over from a severe illness, Shaun arrives at his job in an electronics store (known in the movie as Foree Electric). Because some of the higher-ups have also gotten sick, he takes over for the staff. However, not all of them are eager to work for him as one young employee named Noel casually answers a cell phone call. Shaun scolds his lack of professional respect and says that neither of them wishes to be working here for the rest of their lives. He even states that he has some things that he would like to do, but Noel remains ignorant and points out some red ink that’s staining his pocket. Later on, Shaun is with a customer when Noel tells him that his “dad” has arrived. It turns out to be his stepfather named Philip who reminds him of his upcoming bi-monthly visit and also to present his mother with the flowers that he forgot to bring for Mother’s Day before he also points out the red stain on his shirt and takes his leave. Noel then proceeds to pester him again as Shaun tells him that he’s able to keep his work and personal life separate. As if to contradict that statement, he gets a phone call from Liz who checks up on him to see if he made their dinner reservations for Fulci’s Restaurant (a.k.a. “The Place That Does All The Fish”) at 8pm. However, he’s only casually hearing her and says that he has before hanging up.
Following his day on the job, he goes to Sherman’s Flowers and picks up a bouquet for his mother. Afterwards, he’s met upon by a childhood friend named Yvonne as she says that she recently got her own place. Apparently, she’s made more progress in her life while Shaun is still working at the electronics store and even doing some DJ work on the side. When he then explains that he and Liz have been together for four years, Yvonne then asks where they’re going for dinner. Realizing that he forgot to get a reservation, we cut to him back at his house as he desperately tries to secure an 8pm spot at the preordained restaurant while Ed gives him his phone messages. Unfortunately, the eating establishment is booked solid. Ed tells him to just take her to the Winchester, but Shaun initially refuses. From there, he calls up Liz and mentions that he couldn’t get a reservation. When she asks where they should go then and he brings up the Winchester, she hangs up. One hackney ride later (with the cabby mentioning about him driving off from a mumbling attacker), Shaun arrives at Liz’s apartment (or flat) and asks to be let in. When he gets refused access, he tries to climb up the drainpipe in order to reach her window. One failed climb later, he’s ultimately let in as Liz voices her frustrated anger at him while prepping to go out with her roommates. She even brings up the fact that he’s made fun of her fellow flatmates and that he needs to stop relying on promises since they’re never enough. David then exclaims that he’s pretty much run out of chances, to which Shaun snaps and tells him to just go out with her if he cares so much. When they shift over to her bedroom, Shaun shallowly tries to give Liz his mother’s flowers. However, she easily notices the attached card as she proceeds to tell him that he can’t expect things to work out just because he constantly apologizes, especially since he’s made little effort to make the necessary personal changes. She then says that she’s not going to spend the rest of her days drinking away at the familiar pub and wonder what has happened to her life. With his love life fully-crumbled, the dejected Shaun takes his leave as he walks through the pouring rain before arriving at the Winchester where he proceeds to throw his bouquet into the trash.
As Shaun mopes away, Ed tells him that he doesn’t need Liz since everything he’ll ever want is within their favorite hangout. He even attempts to cheer his friend up with his orangutan impersonation. Several hours and drinks later, the Winchester is closing down for the night as an unknown being approaches the building with the owner yelling out that they’re closed. Afterwards, Shaun and Ed begin to drunkenly stroll home before they notice two people mingling. As they walk away, they’re unaware that the woman has just mutilated her male victim. One matching of beats to a familiar groan of an ominous being later, they arrive home and blast away with Shaun’s DJ set. Just then, Pete comes down and takes his record off the stand as he angrily yells out that it’s 4am. Not only that, but he has to go to work within the next few hours since his fellow workmates have become sick. After also mentioning that someone bit him on his way home, he tosses the record out of the window before heading back up to bed.
We then cut to the next day as Shaun heads out to Nelson’s shop in order to get a soda along with some Cornetto Ice Cream for Ed. Because he’s still partially tired, he’s unaware of the zombie outbreak that’s finally unleashed throughout the neighborhood and that Nelson has been mutilated. After arriving back, he watches several news programs that’re reporting on the growing attacks where people are getting “eaten alive”. Just then, Ed tells him that there’s a girl in their backyard. They head outside and manage to get her attention, unaware that she’s a zombie. As such, she lumbers over to Shaun and tries to bite him. After Ed comically takes a photo of his friend with the zombified woman, Shaun shoves her back as she lands on an umbrella stand and it ends up piercing through her body. Once she picks herself up, another zombie wanders in as Shaun and Ed agree to go back inside. After Shaun learns that the phone lines are busy, he and Ed decide to watch the news in order to learn about this present situation. While another zombie wanders in from the front, the two guys learn too late to lock all of their doors. Shortly after discovering the zombie among them, it ultimately gets defeated when Ed smashes his ash tray into its head. While Shaun goes to lock the front door, the newscaster mentions that these “intruders” can get taken out “by removing the head or destroying the brain”. From there, Issue 1 ends with Ed wanting to head out and fight the zombies. However, Shaun says that they must stay inside in order to remain safe.
With regards into how this issue handles the set-up of the movie’s premise and the various things to come, it mainly does a spot-on job with following the film’s plot thus far. There are a few minor details that are omitted, like two signs of the upcoming zombie outbreak (a man running in terror and a zombie about to eat a pigeon) or even a few alterations here-and-there (like the added deleted scene of the cab driver’s quick zombie conversation), but it doesn’t result in a radical change from what was shown in theaters back in 2004. The artwork is solidly coherent throughout as it gets the likenesses of our main characters in a way that’s not too overly exaggerated, yet carries its own comical look with a varied-enough color palette to help the adapted tale become a pleasant read to adult fans of the material. As for the narrative itself, it sets up the main protagonist, his fellow characters and the personal conflict that he’ll be looking to overcome as his neighborhood gets overrun by the undead. It paces itself at a pleasant rate and has several familiar jokes from the movie’s first act that’ll please familiar fans. It also sets up some of the notable elements that’ll be revisited and paid off later on in the series, so that’s also a major plus. In the end, it gets this familiar tale ready for the terrifyingly zany antics to come and it prepares the viewer for an enjoyable read. So, what will Shaun and company find themselves doing now that this slice of London is getting overrun by zombies? Well, just like this month of Halloween, we’ve only just begun. Make sure that you check back in for my thoughts of Issue #2. Until next time, keep those Cornettos cool in your ice box.
Shaun Of The Dead (created by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg) is owned by Universal Pictures.