Writer: Cullen Bunn
Illustrator: Drew Moss
Colorist: Nick Filardi
Publisher: Oni Press
“Once upon a time in the Ozarks” is how Blood Feud begins setting up a story that could have been borderline offensive in the wrong hands, but instead ends up being a masterpiece. The Ozarks are a unique area in the country with its own folkways, superstitions, and subculture that is different from anyplace else in America. Blood Feud could easily have stereotyped the characters as hillbilly hicks who don’t know anything. Instead Bunn writes chilling horror where the Ozarks setting is a perfect fit for the story that Missouri native Cullen Bunn wanted to tell.
Blood Feud centres around longtime friends CW, Cecil, and Jack. Lead to an injured man by out of town college student Sue Hatchell, their world turns upside down and becomes a horror film. The only thing that Stubbs, the injured man, can get out is “blood feud”. That is where CW, the narrator, informs us that the Whatleys and the Stubbs have hated each other for long as anyone could remember, with the Whatleys also reportedly being users of black magic. From there CW and Jack travel to Stubbs’s home over the hills and find vampires. And not the sparkly Twilight type either. As truly horrifying creatures proceed to attack them, the rest of the plot involves the friends fighting against the undead taking over their town. The story is satisfying for the entire graphic novel including an ending that both feels satisfying and leaves room for a sequel.
Bunn creates characters that have a history and are a delight to be around. You understand that Cecil is the sensible one of the group. A man who is practical and not given to superstition, but still loves his friends who it is clear he has a long history with. Jack, a man capable of herculean feats, is not the most well read as evidenced by his calling the vampires “Draculas”, but clearly has a heart of gold. His story is the most tragic of the bunch, and the more the reader gets to know him the sadder his eventual fate becomes. Then there’s Cecil, the superstitious one who believes the superstitions of the area such as seeing blue jays on a Friday is a bad omen. Finally, Sue works as the outsider. She’s not a victim, at least not any more than any other character is, but she doesn’t understand the area that she’s at. Though she is not part of the group at first, she soon integrates herself and becomes more than just outside person. Each character on their own is strong enough to carry a book, but by having them all together the characters become all the stronger.
The setting of the Ozarks is important to Blood Feud and adds tremendously to the overall atmosphere. Bunn is able to show the superstitions of the Ozarks while showing that not all believe in them. It allows him to add flavor without insulting the region. The fact that walking to Seth Stubbs’s house is quicker than driving due to the region’s infamously winding roads adds drama, but not in a cheap way. It rings true. Even the Whatleys reputation as the family that supposedly have ties to the devil makes sense in the small tight knit communities of the Ozarks. There’s always a black sheep around town, and this is just an exaggerated version of it. Even the funniest joke in the graphic novel works on the rural setting. When all is said and done Bunn took what could have been a detriment and turned it into one of the best parts of the book.
Drew Moss was born to draw horror. His designs for the vampires are disgustingly perfect for the story. Even before a sentence is uttered, or an action is taken by the creatures, there is no doubt that these vampires are monsters through and through. It’s more than just the design though. He illustrates their attacks in clear, but terrifying perfection. The reader is always aware of what is going on and is never lost. When the story calls for a lighter scene, Moss is capable of providing the levity necessary.
Buy It! Blood Feud is about as perfect of a horror comic as it there is. It nails the characters, it nails the horror and when it is done the reader is left wanting more.