By Rodolfo Santullo, Matias Bergara, Tim Pilcher
“Nobody knows exactly how it happened. The authorities constantly denied the existence of local dengue outbreaks. The situation was ‘under control’. There was no cause for alarm.”
Dengue, by writer Rodolfo Santullo (English language adaptation by Tim Pilcher), is a graphic novel that reads almost like a sequel to Michael Crichton’s Prey (if the swarms got loose and grew in number). Santullo takes a real virus and imagines what would happen if it became an overnight epidemic in a busy city. Written in a hard-boiled detective type narrative Santullo is vivid with the gritty details of what such a virus can bring.
Throughout the story we follow Sgt. Pronzini as he discovers more and more horrific cases caused by the outbreak. He’s rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth and he meets all the usual hard-boiled detective characteristics (thanks for the layout, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler).
Something else Santullo addresses is why these insects are here to stay. Wouldn’t a certain season wipe them out? “When the skies turned black and buzzing., Winter was our only hope. Yet it never came. Seasons no longer existed and the constant heat and humidity transformed the whole region into a tropical climate, pretty much like Nicaragua.” – The area has essentially transformed into the ideal conditions for this virus to thrive.
The artwork is by Matias Bergara as he commands pencils, inks, and colors to showcase a world in chaos due to the deadly virus. A lot of the scenes showcase the world as you would imagine looking after the apocalypse (Fallout 3 vibe). Most of the people rarely go outside anymore because of the dangers that exist – being attacked by swarms of mosquitoes doesn’t sound like a good time. Because of the apocalypse setting a lot of the colors for each panel rely on grey, brown, yellow – these colors show the world as bland and without much flare anymore. We see in one scene that a soccer stadium is fitted with an overhead ceiling to keep the bugs out, since people need some sort of enjoyment to rely on, but even this rather joyful scene ends tragically as it’s clear these mosquitoes aren’t leaving any time soon.
The events following the soccer game come to the attention of Sgt. Pronzini, as one of the players is found dead. In his search for the killer he visits the team and sets up his plan to catch whoever did it. Later that night we see him visit the field, a scene where Bergara fills each panel with a deep blue as each character carries a blinding bright yellow light that illuminates the character’s faces. It’s here where Santullo delivers another hard-boiled line when Sgt. Pronzini says “You must’ve spent too much time watching football and not enough police procedurals.” – I think he’s found his target.
Dengue demands your attention; a story filled with devastating events that take wild turns. There is a virus out there, and everyone knows what happens if you get bit once…even twice… but what if you get bit three times? The world is changing, hopefully Sgt. Pronzini has a plan (and enough cigarettes).