Dead By Dawn Quarterly (#1)
Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2006
By: Steve Saville
Creator(s): Andrew Richmond and Shane Chebsey (eds)
Publishers: Scar Comics (Self Published)
I have just finished reviewing a British comic [Monkeys Might Puke] that I described as simplistic in its art but full of laughs, I am about to review another English comic that is anything but simplistic in presentation and definitely not a belly full of laughs. The contrast between the two comics could not be greater; ah such is the wonderful world of sequential art.
The art work in this anthology is varied in style but consistent in quality. The stories similar. The one commonality that runs through the majority of the 11 self contained comics is quality and the recurring theme of charting the descent of an individual into insanity.
Hardly a light read then, a fact we are forewarned about on the comic’s cover,
"Eleven tales of terror from the masters of contemporary horror."
I assume that such tales are intended to unsettle and terrify, that being the case Dead by Dawn is hugely successful, it is very unnerving.
Nowhere more so than in the opening spine chilling tale I am not Here by A.J Whittaker and joint editor Andrew Richmond. This tale of a girl/young woman’s abduction and imprisonment by a psychopathic killer who has just butchered her family is a disturbing experience. Presented in first person diary form it is an uncomfortable read.
The stories title comes from the diary she keeps and explains how she tries to cope with her horrific situation, she wills herself to somewhere else. A way of prolonging impending madness.
This story encapsulates much of what is good about this anthology. It builds a genuine tension and sense of fear and it does so not through graphic violence but by exploring the mental states of the disturbed or terrified characters that people the frames.
At least half of the eleven tales investigate the mental states of those on the brink of murder, suicide, infanticide and insanity and this is where the real horror comes from.
Those stories that are most effective marry a discordant narrative with art from the brink. In I am not Here for example the paint splattered and streaked pages and frames that are dominated by terrified eyes or evil glints of smiles perfectly capture the hopelessness and bleakness faced by the terrified female as she awaits her inevitably degrading end.
There is something about these tales of innocence destroyed that sears itself into my head and haunts me for days, such is the case here. The story and art work are outstanding but the effect on the reader unpleasant to the extreme.
It doesn’t lighten up either, Paul O'Connells tale of the moral dilemma faced by a hotel receptionist who discovers a blood splattered hotel room is just as unsettling in its lack of resolution.
The next tale Bad Places by Nigel Auchterlounie takes you to a place where something very nasty is about to happen and leaves you there.
Then we have Curse of the Black Swamp, with its Shakespearean language and grotesque storyline of babies stolen and/or murdered. Every bit as gruesome as the Bard's Titus Andronicus.
Chris Wisnia’s Reflection, Distortion, Reality is another descent into insanity tale where art and narrative are in perfect harmony.
Finally with Ali Graham’s The Horror Retreat Centre we have some light relief, yes in the middle of all this bleakness some humour. The funniest episode here is that describing a vampire that is afraid of the dark, think about it, funny eh.
The following tale Parasites is a tale of infanticide and a haunting one it is too. The next two Moray Rhoda’s Fright Knight and >Attack of the Clabs by R. Starzecki are both highly effective comics but in such powerful company they seem to lack the intensity of much of the work that precedes them
It speaks volumes for this anthology that if either of these comics appeared anywhere else I would be singing their praises but here they don’t stand out. The same goes for Martin Eden’s Nine to Five.
So the intensity starts to diminish as we delve further but rest assured the final story sends the tension scale soaring again as James Hodgkins explores the moral dilemma faced by soldiers in a war zone. Exquisite presentation and a beautifully controlled narrative, what a finale.
My only gripe would be the price, at six quid that’s quite an investment, and quite a price to pay to be scared half to death.
In a Word: Hellish.
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