Retovirus is a Kickstarter success story by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. It follows Zoe Wallace, an expert in retrovirus and genetics. After giving a lecture in New York and breaking up with her boyfriend, Zoe is introduced to Bio-Pharm to investigate a collection of mutated cells. What are the cells and where have they come from? A seemingly normal job offer becomes a nightmare. An accelerating locked door horror book.

The premise is simple enough: it is the typical quarantine story where the virus has managed to get out. Yet the story is intriguing and different enough, providing shocks and surprises as the book unfolds to keep the reader interested. The shocks build up and up, enthralling the reader as they continue on the ride. The page turns work well, making the reader want to see what is coming up next.

The dialogue feels natural and will drag the reader onto find out more. Zoe is a strong character that will no doubt bring in a slightly different audience to the usual comic book scene. Although there have been some strong female characters in the past it is always refreshing to see another. By the first few pages, the reader already feels very connected to her and her plight. She is a character that the reader would happily see more of.

A key problem with the book are the horror scenes. In my opinion horror always works best when the reader does not see everything. This allows the reader to fill in the gaps and consequently makes the scene even more terrifying than it would have been. However here we see everything from the get go. Another problem is that we know what the monster looks like from early in the book. This worked as a good shock, yet it would have been even more entertaining if the reader did not discover this or at least did not see it until later in the story. Further the overuse of blood desensitizes the violence instead of making it horrific. It feels more comedic than anything else as the colour red engulfs the pages.

The art by Noberto Fernandez does its job but unfortunately it does not add the cherry on top of the story cake. Fernandez provides some good facial expressions showing emotion from the characters. However the style doesn’t feel quite right. It doesn’t draw you in as much as the story would want you to. The colours also don’t seem to compliment it. Possibly a brighter palate or even black and white with dashes of red would have been more effective. The lettering works well, changing to show differing emotions.

Overall Retrovirus is a very enjoyable graphic horror novella producing a leading character that the reader will want to see more of. Some scenes could have been implemented better but the rollercoaster pace of the story and the depth of the characters manages to make this a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.5/5
Reporter: Luke Halsall

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