A comic by suspu

Full disclosure on this one: I love the zombie genre. I know it’s played out. I know it’s become saturated with mediocre stories. I know its popularity boom a few years ago has made everyone pretty sick of zombies by now. One might say that the zombie genre has been destroyed by a lurching horde of bad zombie stories. It’s almost like some kind of… apocalypse.

But all is not lost. Camped out in the genre’s smoking rubble, you can still find survivors – I think I’ve taken this metaphor too far. The point is: not all zombie stories suck. Case in point: ShootAround.

Created by Finnish artist suspu and hosted on the similar-to-Tapastic-but-unknown-to-me, ShootAround is a bit of a dark horse – I’d never heard of it, and I found it by chance the other day on a link-hopping binge. And frankly? That’s exactly the kind of exposure problem I created this site to correct.

Jeff seems like an ok guy.
Jeff seems like an ok guy.

ShootAround is about a girls’ high school basketball team and their coach surviving in the ruins of their city after the zombie apocalypse hits during practice. They do the usual end-of-the-world stuff: scavenging for weapons and food, sleeping in ruined and abandoned buildings, and slaughtering the ambulatory corpses of their former classmates. So what sets this comic apart from all the other similar stories? Well, besides the fact that the cast is 6/7ths teenage girls(!), mostly people of color(!!), and features characters both queer and trans(!!!), ShootAround is god damn hilarious.

ChainsawMost of the humor comes from the girls’ backwards priorities; no one seems to really understand, on an emotional level, that the world has ended. They worry instead about retrieving their cutest outfits, pondering the coolest weapons to wield, and grabbing as much junk food as possible – even if breaking that storefront glass is going to bring the walking dead down on them.

Protect the candyBut then again, how backwards are their priorities? The girls are actually dangerously genre-savvy, knowing enough at the very start of the story to immediately knock out their coach and amputate his arm after he gets bitten, saving his life. And several of the girls are extremely adept at killing the undead, having mowed down dozens by the time Jeff regains consciousness. So they use these survival skills to get back a little bit of normalcy, too. These humorous moments are actually the heart of the story: Lyanna smashes that glass knowing that she has a solid team of well-armed friends to back her up; the team gets excited about looting the mall because they can finally have for free the things they always wanted; they venture into danger to get their street clothes back because how can you keep your spirits up after the end of the world if you’re stuck wearing your basketball jersey?

Hotaru comforting Kayla about her zombified crush.
Hotaru comforting Kayla about her zombified crush.

The humor of ShootAround isn’t the gallows humor of other apocalyptic comedies like Shaun of the Dead. It’s much more genuine, a laughter-is-the-best-medicine approach to dealing with the end of the world. The girls do understand what’s going on, and it hurts – but they have their camraderie and banter with each other to keep them all going, to make things feel a little more normal, a little more safe. They’re good at surviving, but together, they’re also good at living.

My partner made fun of me for taking so long to realize that Chau is trans.
It probably shouldn’t have taken me so long to realize that Chau is trans.

One of the highlights for me, and one of the things that really demonstrates how close the characters are, is how a major part of their survival plan is travelling to Chau’s house to pick up her hormones. No one questions the importance of hormones in a life or death scenario, and that’s just downright supportive. The other highlight, of course, is how there’s been major Kayla/Hotaru buildup recently. I’m shipping it!

How cute is it that Jeff does Lyanna's hair? How impressive is it that he can still do it after his dominant hand is amputated?
How cute is it that Jeff does Lyanna’s hair? How impressive is it that he can still do it after his dominant hand is amputated?

So it turns out ShootAround isn’t really about basketball, except insofar as how being on a team builds close relationships with people. And it’s not really about zombies either, except how the world ending lets you focus on what’s important. But it is definitely about girls being there for each other, protecting each other, loving each other, and of course, making each other laugh.

Final verdict: You ever watch a zombie movie and think “This would be so much better without all these white dudes, and also if I was in tears laughing”? ShootAround is the comic for you.

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