Published by Image Comics on November 21, 2012
Genres: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
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When Zoe, a brilliant young scientist who specializes in identifying extinct viruses, is offered a job at a remote research facility in Antarctica, she soon discovers her employer has unearthed a perfectly preserved Neanderthal. That is only one of the many dark secrets lurking at the facility as Zoe races against time to stop a global pandemic.
In the vein of Andromeda Strain, Altered States, and Jurassic Park, Retrovirus seamlessly blends human drama, action, science fiction, and horror into a 64-page graphic novel written by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray (Queen Crab, Jonah Hex, Creator-Owned Heroes) and illustrated by Norberto Fernandez (The Tattered Man).
Dr Zoe Wallace is famous for her work on retroviruses. She’s approached by BioPharm with a job offer–she can study a neanderthal who is infected with a dead virus that is related to one the dinosaurs once had. Unfortunately, when she arrives at the research facility it’s to find that the virus isn’t as dead as she expected…
The artwork is what really sold the novel to me, it does a fantastic job at not just looking pretty, but also portraying emotional scenes. I found that a lot of the panels that had no text were some of the most evocative and compelling ones. And there were a few bits that I loved seeing, such as the stuffed Spock in Zoe’s room. It helped show a lot about the character, without the reader needing to be told in so many words, which I think is very important in a graphic novel.
On the other hand, the art was also used to continue stereotypes, with the scientists at the conference who are portrayed as perverts leering at the young and beautiful Zoe, while they themselves are either old, overweight, or both, and the majority of the scientists also wear glasses. There were a few instances where the dialogue could have been eliminated and a panel of art used to show instead, but otherwise it was really well done.
The story, though, was intriguing. I’m not a scientist, but I was fairly certain that the genetic science in Jurassic Park was pretty terrible, and it was probably bad in this as well, but it was consistent and believable which is the most important part of any science fiction. Zoe was a fairly strong female character, she expressed herself well and she was the one scientist who didn’t seem to be letting BioPharm pull the wool over her eyes after the first time. She agreed to signing up to work for the company and to her later romantic relationship a bit easily, but for such a short novel it’s understandable.
My only real complaint was that the ending felt a little too rushed. I really hope that there is a sequel for this one, because I’d like to know more about Zoe’s future research projects with BioPharm.