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“SELF STORAGE” (Comic Book Review)

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451 Comics is really doing a service for fans of graphic novels and the like. By taking inspired, cinematic scripts and stories stuck in the Hollywood development system and giving them the comic book treatment, they’re not only providing writers with an uncompromising creative outlet, but they’re giving fans the chance to read content that hasn’t been noted and watered down to death by executives. Instead, they get truly great, mature storytelling with a look that reads in a way not unlike cinema, and if you’re a horror fan, you’ll get something like Clay Mcleod Chapman’s SELF STORAGE.

For those unfamiliar, SELF STORAGE follows Chris Smith, a blue-collar-type of man who spends his time raiding abandoned storage units and reselling goods to unknowing buyers. However, after a tumultuous break-up, Chris Smith storms back to the storage lot and buys an odd unit that contains a nude female zombie named Jessica, who seemingly has an awareness of her situation and surroundings. Yet when the storage unit’s owner and Chris’ dumb, greedy fellow lot purchasers unknowingly come across the storage unit while Chris investigates the truth, bodies begin to pile up… although they don’t stay that way for long.

Imagine if THE WALKING DEAD was directed by Stuart Gordon and you’d get an idea of what you might expect from SELF STORAGE, but even that description would be underselling what SELF STORAGE has to offer. With colorful characters, a curiously evolving plot and some stellar dark humor, SELF STORAGE certainly leaves behind the self-seriousness of other zombie tales, and yet never falls into parody territory either. Chapman plays the tone like a manic mad doctor, jumping from scenario to scenario while dropping foreboding clues and sometimes hilariously organic tonal jumps throughout.

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However, Chapman isn’t the only one responsible for SELF STORAGE’s narrative success, as the truly stellar artwork from illustrator Matt Timson grips the audience’s eye from start to finish. While the story is certainly the driving force, one can’t help but admire Timson’s depth and style, which turns SELF STORAGE into more than just an exciting, insane page-turner, but a legitimately impressive visual diary as well. While Chapman’s words capture the flavor of the characters, Timson’s artwork captures their physicality, their flaws and their increasingly poor decisions in a gorgeously detailed work, with the only drawback being that the black-and-white comic could potentially sell it’s splattery moments better with colors.

Also what is admirable about SELF STORAGE is that the comic goes out of it’s way to avoid many of what would hurt this story if given the traditional Hollywood treatment. Exposition is placed very carefully, and often bookended between realistic takes on what would happen if idiots really discovered something beyond their comprehension. Whether it’s rednecks using an aimlessly drifting zombie as paintball target practice or one of the most darkly humorous fates for an unsuspecting family in horror history, SELF STORAGE isn’t interested in heart-stopping, mile-a-minute action or heartbreaking, contrived plot twists. SELF STORAGE marches to the beat of its own drum, and while some might be quick to play up the outbreak scenario, SELF STORAGE instead almost becomes an oddly romantic story in which the chief antagonist might just be the person most would identify as the atypical comic relief.

Four issues in, however, it’s easy to say SELF STORAGE earns its acclaim by being simply damn good, with 451 doing an excellent job in bringing Chapman’s story to life. With a refreshing narrative and Timson’s unbelievably great artwork, SELF STORAGE could- and should- become a cult classic comic, as it’s hard to believe that those who stumble upon this unique undead story won’t be left wondering just what macabre, unpredictable places it’s going next.

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About the author
Kristen Adelwerth
Kristen is a grad student studying screenwriting in New York, NY. She loves horror movies about dead teens and grew up with an insatiable appetite for bloody slasher flicks. Her favorite film is THE CONDEMNED.
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