“Unlike most decadent imperialist art, this Addison’s work has a purpose… It educates. Reveals the array of fauna that survives in the western zone” — Don Jae, Spill Zone, p. 198.
|Creator(s)||Scott Westerfeld (author), Alex Puvilland (illustrator)|
|Genre||Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fiction|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Mutated Organisms, Nuclear Disaster, Hostile Environment, Habitat Destruction|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Addison: White teenage girl|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 2: Low Environmental Agency|
|Target Audience||Young Adult|
|Settings||Poughkeepsie, New York|
Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland’s graphic novel Spill Zone takes place in Poughkeepsie, New York three years after a mysterious disaster known as the Spill destroyed the city. The disaster killed the city’s human residents, transforming them into floating, glowing “meat puppets.” The remaining plants and animals have mutated into frightening new forms, and unseen forces twist inanimate objects like telephone wires and bowling pins into bizarre shapes. And perhaps most strangely of all, the Spill has colored the town with lurid hues, turning once-ordinary streets into rainbow landscapes.
During a trip to the Spill Zone, a mutated wolf-like creature with unnaturally long legs and organs trailing from a hole in its stomach pursues Addison. She escapes and sells a photograph of it to her middle man dealer, who reveals her identity to an art collector, the wealthy Tan’ea Vandersloot. Tan’ea picks up Addison and takes the girl to her mansion, where she has collected many of Addison’s photographs. The older woman reveals that a second Spill occurred in North Korea the same night as the Poughkeepsie incident. The North Koreans have been studying their own Spill, unlike the American government, who has quarantined the area. The Koreans hire Addison to travel into a hospital in the Poughkeepsie Spill Zone and retrieve an object for them in exchange for a million dollars.
Addison travels back to the Spill Zone and ventures into the hospital to find her target: strange dust from a machine from the radiology room. The dust immediately starts to affect her senses, and she discovers that the frightening denizens of the Spill now fear her. Unsettled, she returns home with the dust, where her friend Wiley confronts her about her illegal activities. As they argue, Lexa’s doll Vespertine comes to life in front of them, ending the volume on with a cliffhanger.
Spill Zone consistently portrays the altered Poughkeepsie environment and its mutated residents as frightening and hostile, though Addison manages to capture the area’s surreal beauty in her photographs. While the first volume does not provide an explanation for the Spill, Addison speculates about potential causes: “A nanotech accident colliding with the local nuclear power plant? An alien visitation? Something spilling from another world?” (Westerfeld 21). In addition to not knowing the source of the disaster, none of the characters attempt to solve the crisis, with Addison instead simply trying to stay alive and profit from the Spill Zone.