Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray & John Higgins (2007) Fox Atomic (Harper Collins), trd pbk, £9.99, pp??. ISBN 978-0-007-2-5983-0
This is another in the new series of film spin-offs from Fox Atomic. Like 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, this one is a kind of a prequel that looks back at events before the first film but then takes us beyond it. This graphic novel can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but I suspect devotees of the films will enjoy it more. However if you are not aware of the films, then here is the key information...
The Hills Have Eyes was originally a 1977 film but remade in 2006 by Wes Craven of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame. It is a science-fantasy horror concerning a family driving though the New Mexico desert. Not heeding the warning of a garage owner to stay on the main road, they take a short-cut through an old nuclear testing site and then (it had to happen) their van breaks down. To add to their woes they are attacked by a group of mutant cannibals...
The Hills Have Eyes II (2007) sees from the National Guard take supplies into a field camp within the old nuclear test site. Yet when they arrive the camp is deserted. They pick up a garbled distress message apparently coming from the nearby hills and so off they go to investigate. Big mistake!
The graphic novel on the other hand takes us back to before the first film. It starts with the locals of a small village being told to move out by the army who are appropriating the area. The locals resist but finally leave their homesteads for the hills. Then the nuclear tests begin. Unfortunately the radiation leaves its scars and the children born to the homesteaders are mutants. Shunned by civilization they seek out a living any way they can but always remember that their greatest enemy is the army.
As with the 28 Days Later: The Aftermath graphic novel, The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning is a neat bridge-building exercise. The graphic novel is a little short for my liking and the story could be more developed. This last probably arises out of the film sitting between genre-stools. They are primarily geared to deliver frights to horror buffs and while there is an undercurrent of SF, it is not as substantial -- as say in an SF-horror like Alien -- to provide appeal for those purely into SF. Nonetheless the SFnal riff is there albeit muted. Also present is a political edge -- individuals versus the state in what purports to be a free country. This is more apparent in the graphic novel though I do not believe it to be as meaningful as one of the afterwards alludes. Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray wrote the graphic novel's storyline. The former has written for a number of DC comics titles, while the latter (of interest to regular science fact & fiction Concat folk) has worked as a microphotographer of fossils for the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. Artist John Higgins has worked on 2000AD stories and was also the colourer on the seminal Watchmen. As the sound pedigrees of this team would warrant, The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning is a graphic novel worthy of fans of the recent films. I am not entirely sure whether it will appeal to a broader readership but, if it does, it is a good an advert for the recent films as their makers (and Wes Craven) could wish.
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