The book bridges the gap between the original film and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. It explores four interconnecting stories and delves deeper into the development of the Rage virus, the battle for survival that ensued once it was unleashed in London, and what it finally took to restore order in the ravaged city.
28 Days Later: The Aftermath was the first graphic novel released by Fox Atomic Comics.
Aftermath is divided into four stories ranging in setting from shortly before the outbreak to several months afterward. The first three stories each follow separate groups or individuals; the fourth story brings the survivors of these stories together for their ultimate fate.
Stage 1: Development
The first stage begins an unknown amount of time before the initial outbreak. It opens in parallel fashion to 28 Days Later with a montage of violent acts, which are soon revealed to be video footage on a bank of television screens—in this case, CCTV footage of crimes which had taken place in London the previous night. Two scientists named Clive and Warren are attempting to develop an inhibitor which can be used to control aggressive impulses in humans.
Warren is able to secure a violent criminal as a human test subject by bribing a police captain. When the subject proves uncontrollable, Warren and Clive are forced to kill him and hide his body. Despite his misgivings, Clive is now irrevocably tied to the project.
Warren decides that the only feasible means of widely disseminating their inhibitor is through the use of a contagion. He genetically modifies the Ebola virus to carry the inhibitor, against Clive's strong objections. Weeks later, however, the virus has mutated, reversing the inhibitor's effect—the Rage virus has been born. After a satirical commentary by Clive about how Warren created the very opposite of what they were trying to develop, Warren attacks Clive, but Clive defends himself and then quits the project. Later, he makes a call from a public telephone to an eco-terrorist group called the Animal Freedom Front, and then shoots himself in the head. This gives the reader an insight of how infection started and brought the devastation to Britain.
The story then shifts to Warren who is sitting at his desk talking to an unknown person on the telephone. Warren informs him that the inhibitor has had a reverse effect. The man enlightens Warren that this could have "other applications" when the telephone suddenly cuts out. Warren at this moment hears a strange noise coming from down the hall and seems distressed by it. He approaches a door noticing it was left open. Upon entering the door, Warren is abruptly ambushed by an ape who vomits in his face infecting him with "Rage." This is the end of the chapter. In the movie, this is shortly after the animal terrorists 'save' the chimps.
Stage 2: Outbreak
The second story begins the day after the break-in at the laboratory. A family of five is picnicking at a park in Cambridge, bickering over trivial things. Youngest son, Liam, sees a chimpanzee in a tree; the ape assaults him and vomits blood in his face. The boy's father, Roger, subdues and kills the animal. A team of paramedics happens to be nearby, attending to a bicyclist with a minor injury. They rush to the aid of the boy and load him into their ambulance, instructing the family to follow in their own vehicle as they rush the child to a hospital in London. The family trailing the ambulance witness scenes of carnage along the way; the infection precedes them.
Inevitably, Liam becomes infected and infects the two paramedics riding with him. When the driver opens the ambulance's back doors, Liam and the paramedics assault him. Liam's family then realizes that something is terribly wrong.
Days later, the four surviving family members are hiding out in a barricaded dwelling in London. The news on the radio is dire, but the signal cuts to static. Elder son Sid suggests they try to escape to safety up the Thames River. They reach Westminster Bridge with Infected hot on their trail. Parents, Roger and Barb, urge their children to jump down to the abandoned, but functional, motorboats floating below, promising to follow after. Instead, they remain on the bridge for a last stand, allowing Sid and Sophie to escape upriver undetected.
Stage 3: Decimation
The third story takes place 29 to 32 days after the initial outbreak—roughly the same time as the bulk of 28 Days Later. A lone survivor named Hugh, decked out in a mishmash of protective clothing, has inherited London. He spends his days hunting the Infected with a machete and an SA80 rifle he looted from a military blockade.
The comic begins with one of the Infected attacking a person in silhouette only to find out it is a mannequin doused with perfume. This confirms that the Infected use their sense of smell to track humans and distinguish them from the horde. Among other things, trace amounts of chemical products such as shampoo and perfumes seem to attract the Infected.
Before Hugh can gloat, however, he is attacked by another survivor wearing SWAT gear and a hockey mask. Evading the assailant's hail of fire, Hugh makes for safety and plans to eliminate this apparent threat. Stocking up on ammunition (and perfume), Hugh sets out for the hunt.
After being ambushed by Hugh, the other survivor retreats to his vehicle—a commandeered military transport. Hugh douses the vehicle with about a gallon of perfume from his rooftop perch, and before the other survivor can question the meaning of the act, he is set upon by the horde, who infect him before tearing him apart. Hugh shoots the vehicle until he ignites its petrol tank, killing a large number of Infected. Behind him, though, he hears an unfamiliar sound and turns to see several US Navy F-14 Tomcats making a low pass over central London.
Stage 4: Quarantine
The final story takes place 38 to 42 days after the initial infection. Sid and his sister Sophie have reached a refugee center and been taken in. Sophie now volunteers at the makeshift hospital, where she meets a new arrival brought in from one of the city hospitals. It is Clive, who has survived his suicide attempt. He initially attempts to explain his involvement directly, but quickly decides to hide his responsibility. Instead, he explains what he can do about the virus, revealing only that he is a scientist himself.
Sid, meanwhile, becomes friends with another new arrival—Hugh. Hugh initially refused to be brought to the camp and he explains his misgivings to Sid. Eventually, Hugh is able to convince Sid, Sophie, and Clive that the military has ulterior motives and that they must escape. They steal some uniforms and weapons and they head for the hills, but they are detected. Sid and Hugh volunteer to remain behind to hold off the soldiers following them; they are both killed in a fusillade of gunfire.
Higher up the hill, Clive stops Sophie and reveals that he was on the team which developed the virus that killed her family and warns that it could possibly mutate again. He tries to ask her to help him find a way to make things right. Instead, Sophie kisses him, then shoots him in the head. Smiling, she drops her pistol, and allows a sniper aboard the pursuit helicopter to kill her with a rifle shot through the head.