Review - Death Head #1

"Just a quick look. Then we're outta here."

There are unwritten rules about horror movies. One of them happens to be that you don't explore anachronistic villages for the sake of curiosity. Doing so often doesn't end well for the explorers, something that's potentially on tap in Death Head #1 from Dark Horse. The issue is written by Zack and Nick Keller, illustrated by Joanna Estep, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick and lettered by John J. Hill.

When Niles and Justine Burton go camping to get a break from their stressful lives, they expect to find peace...not an abandoned village hiding an ancient evil. In a turn of events ripped straight from a horror movie, a brutal killer wearing a plague doctor’s mask begins hunting Niles, Justine and their two kids.

There's a sense of foreboding that comes with fearing urban legends and that sense hangs over Death Head #1 quite heavily. The Kellers use the first issue to introduce the readers to Niles, Justine and their kids, with all three in various states of living and interacting with others. The parents are content to explore the wilderness, even if their curiosity is slated to get the best of them, the daughter is a bully and the son is being bullied. It's this dynamic that the Kellers capitalize on in order to engender a range of emotions in the reader, as you could easily find yourself rooting for or against them for any number of reasons. There's a certain level of mystery embedded in the horror of the masked man who's decided to target them as his next prey though, as really the issue only presents the plight of the family as just being completely unaware of their environment.

Much of the illustrations in Death Head #1 emphasizes characters with sharp, angular faces. Estep uses this to pretty solid effect in terms of presenting impactful facial expressions throughout, all of which keep the reader grounded in terms of the prevailing sense of foreboding. The main characters look convincing enough as a typical family, but Estep does get a chance to get a little crazy with some of the scenes involving primarily the son and daughter. Much of the artwork excels because of Fitzpatrick's colors, who gives each of the characters a different tone that clearly defines their participation in the story. Vivid oranges signify fire exceptionally well, in addition to darker blues for water and brownish-green for the forest.

Death Head #1 promises to get worse before it gets better, which is a testament to its horror mentality. The last-page reveal is pretty haunting, primarily because it's done in a way that keeps the family completely in the dark and offers the reader a glimpse of upcoming depravity. The script by the Kellers feels a little jumpy, but it's getting a lot of the character introductions out of the way in the first issue. Estep's illustrations are rugged and simple, yet effective in conveying the tale of a family about to come into some really bad misfortune. Death Head #1 is a pretty dark first issue that features a boogeyman with potential to be terrifying.

Death Head #1 is in stores July 15.