Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review - Shadows on the Grave #1 (@DarkHorseComics)


"I heard something. What was it?"

Horror is subjective. Spiders scare some people, while serial killers scare others. There are very few universal scares save for maybe death and Shadows on the Grave #1 from Dark Horse Comics has that in spades. The issue is written and illustrated by Richard Corben.

The master of supernatural horror is back with bizarre tales of terror in his signature black-and-white style. Running through the entire series is the continuing story of Corben’s new warrior character, Denaeus, reminiscent of his best-loved creation, Den from the classic Heavy Metal series.

Corben breaks Shadows on the Grave #1 into four short stories: “Strung Along” about a mcreepy puppet show, “Roots in Hell” about a shipwrecked couple, “For Better or Worse” about an incomplete murder and “Denaeus: Dreams and Portents” which takes place in Ancient Greece and will continue. Each of the four stories is unique in that Corben manages to find a way to make them each sufficiently creepy in various ways. Corben is a master of crafting horror tales that send shivers down your spine and he does so without being overtly graphic. The four stories also seem to focus on duos and their relationships with one another--Corben emphasizes that certain relationships can bring solace while others can bring pain. The stories are also very vague in their resolution, partly because they're short stories contained within something of an anthology, but also partly because Mag the Hag gives the reader plenty of set-up.

What really makes stories by Corben so creepy is his artwork and its attention to the macabre. Corben's characters in Shadows on the Grave #1 are sufficiently grotesque in physical appearance, lending themselves to the eerie vibe of the book. Even the seemingly happy couple in "Roots in Hell" have a look about them that gives the reader the impression that something bad has already happened to them. Corben excels at using his artwork to paint the world in a less than flattering light that is alarmingly effective in furthering the vile atmosphere. The black and white finish for the book furthers this atmosphere, with even Mag the Hag giving the reader an introduction about the use of black/white/grey tones for effect.

Shadows on the Grave #1 is a pretty unsettling collection of short comics that hits all the right, terrifying notes. The characters in each story are all faced with an improbable horror that requires them to make unsettling decisions--the consequences of which bear out in different ways. Corben's script is chilling in its delivery, but is buoyed by the somewhat surprisingly "cheerful" mood of Mag the Hag. His artwork is uncomfortable in that it gives the reader a sense of unpleasantness that's reflective of the stories themselves. Shadows on the Grave #1 is another fantastic work by a master in horror that will haunt your day.

Shadows on the Grave #1 is available now.

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