Spill Zone, First Second’s graphic novel written by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Afterworlds, Zer0es) and illustrated by Alex Puvilland (Prince of Persia, Templar), has been in the works since 2014. Their eerie story, of an unexplained Spill that transforms the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, into an ominous neon ground zero, will be released in graphic novel form in May 2017—but First Second is also serializing Spill Zone online starting this week. You can follow along with Addison Merrick as she ventures into the Spill Zone on her motorcycle to take illicit (but highly in demand) photos of the ghost town that may contain an actual ghost—or, at least, a strange energy that keeps the swings swinging and arranges everything from bowling pins to birds in the shape of the symbol for infinity.
Nobody’s ever really explained the Spill. Was it an angelic visitation? A nanotech accident? A porthole opening from another world? Whatever it was, no one’s allowed in the Spill Zone these days except government scientists and hazmat teams. But a few intrepid explorers know how to sneak through the patrols and steer clear of the dangers inside the Zone. Addison Merrick is one such explorer, dedicated to finding out what happened that night, and to unraveling the events that took her parents and left her little sister mute and disconnected from the world.
Westerfeld writes in his introduction that he was inspired by the Ukrainian photojournalist Elena Filatova and her motorcycle trips into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in 2004, writing up accounts that made the site of the world’s greatest nuclear accident sound positively apocalyptic. Even as Filatova was revealed to have fabricated much of her narrative, the visual stuck.
And with Puvilland and colorist Hilary Sycamore (Battling Boy, The Shade) providing the incredible neon color scheme—a stark contrast to the dullness of Addison’s daily life, along with her sister Lexa, who survived the Spill but hasn’t spoken since—we can also envision what Westerfeld saw through Filatova’s explorations: “a world that’s both alien and beautiful.”
The comic will update every week with about six pages or so. Enter the Spill Zone, if you dare.