Writers: Rob Levin & Troy Peteri
Artist: Bing Cansino
Colors: Andrei Pervukhin
Letters: Troy Peteri
Cover artist: Tae Young Choi
Editor: Renae Geerlings
Publisher: Radical Publishing
Price: $3.99 US
As we continue our eerie journey this week to All Hallows Eve, I turn my attention from a horror comic of the past to a brand new instance of gore galore put to paper. Radical Publishing timed the release of this new title well, no doubt to intentionally coincide with the leadup to Halloween. The title of this new six-issue limited series alone ought to garner some attention given the approaching holiday, as I would imagine some people are in a horror frame of mind at the end of October. As I read this issue, I was struck by the gratuitous nature of the opening. I thought I was in for a disappointment, but once the real plot got underway, a different kind of horror story began to unfold. The premise is a solid one, and by the end of the issue, I was genuinely engrossed in the story of a down-on-his-luck realtor and the chilling conflict with which he was suddenly faced. While the art, rendered in a pseudo-painted style that’s been typical of many Radical titles so far, didn’t grab me, I nevertheless found this to be one of the burgeoning publisher’s best efforts so far, if not the best.
Richard Ashwalt’s life is a mess as of late. He’s not getting along with his life, as he resents her for forcing him into a job he hates. That job is as a realtor, and his sales are in the crapper. One of the reasons is that one of his listings is the Mitchell house. It’s a gorgeous house, offering all of the amenities that people in a small town would want. Unfortunately, everybody in this small town knows exactly what happened there not long ago — when Jay Mitchell butchered guests at his young son’s birthday party before turning his sudden murderous intent on his wife and child. Who would want to buy a house with such a history? Well, Richard meets just such a man, but this a client who makes his skin crawl and might just turn his life into a real hell.
Bing Cansino’s line art, adorned with Andrei Pervukhin colors, achieve a look that deceives the audience into thinking of it as a painted work, but the airy hues just simulate it, apparently. The realistic approach to the visuals for this book makes the intense violence that dominates the opening scene all the more disturbing. It’s a shame the storytellers opt to shove the violence and gore right in the audience’s faces. They could’ve communicated the horror just as effectively by suggesting it rather than showing it. I don’t mind being disturbed by my horror comics, but I don’t want to be disgusted. The quasi-painted look doesn’t serve the quieter, more mundane moments that follow that introductory sequence, as the figures come off looking stiff.
Cansino deserves some credit, though, for his depiction of the apparent antagonist, Jebediah Crone. The cover artist presents Crone as too much of a caricature, but there’s something a little more believable and therefore insidious about the depiction of the character in the interior art. Another character’s look that didn’t quite work for me was the protagonist’s boss at the realty firm. Seeing Gary Cole’s dickish boss character from Office Space took me right out of the story, and the goofiness of the homage runs contrary to the overall atmosphere of the story.
The script here isn’t perfect. At first, I thought years had passed since the murders in the opening scene were committed in relation to the main plot, but then we see that the house is still riddled with bloodstains. In fact, that element was rather ludicrous. Any house that’s actually on the market, even if it was a crime scene, would’ve been cleaned up long before this point. It’s an odd slip that disrupts the reading experience. Of course, the dialogue and narration is solid. One really gets a sense of Richard’s “voice,” and it makes it easier to buy back into his story and the premise. Speaking of which, the notion of a ghoulish figure trying to purchase sites where unspeakable evils occurred is a novel and interesting one.
I think what makes the story so compelling is that the writers present their protagonist, Richard Ashwalt, with two different conflicts. One is ordinary — he’s dissatisfied with his life but wants to work hard to provide for his family — and the other is unreal and dangerous. Richard’s everyday problems are relatable and grounded, and they bring credibility to the (seemingly) supernatural challenge that’s intruded into his life. I love the air of mystery that surrounds Jebediah Crone, which is surprising, since the reader knows (or strongly suspects) he’s snatching up murder scenes for his own twisted, macabre purposes. I want to know what he’s up to, and I want to know what caused the murders that sparked this whole situation in the first place. The writers have done an excellent job of establishing a tense though alluring, dark mood that’s difficult for the reader to resist. 7/10
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