Story: M.L Miller
Art: James Michael Whynot
Colors: Dee Cunniffe
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Review by Malcolm Derikx
Black Mask Studios has been pumping out some real quality creator-owned books, each with an intense and unique visual style. Gravetrancers is no different; a creepy, black ink and near-neon horror-story about two siblings who find themselves up against a gang of homicidal grave-robbers addicted to a strange drug made from human remains. It’s a hallucinogenic ride through hell, and a pretty good book if you can stomach the grotesque bits.
Our story begins as we follow Maribel and Anthony, two siblings looking for the grave of their late, estranged Father. Unbeknownst to them, he’s buried in Malort Cemetery, run by this bizarre clan of undertakers straight out of The Hills Have Eyes or The Devil’s Rejects. The two unfortunately find themselves falling for some rather classic horror movie mistakes (“Let’s follow this guy out into the graveyard in the dead of night!”), but that aside, the plot is strong and the main characters pretty distinct and interesting. I sure hope this isn’t all we see of them, as we find them in very sticky situations by issues end- this being a horror comic, there’s no telling what could happen. But I like the duo, and I’m rooting for them.
Our main villain presumably, who confronts the duo toward the end of the comic, I’m on the fence about. He quotes a line from Welcome to Nightvale verbatim, and the way its presented makes me think it’s meant to be taken as an original line, which is a frustrating distraction. I feel like with such a repertoire of serial killer families out there our villains have a little bit more to go before they become truly memorable. That being said, I feel like the true horror that Miller is excited to show us isn’t the family, but the psychedelic high you get from being injected with human remains. Now that’s a really promising idea, and I’m excited to see it explored further. The story also has a tendency to linger on the grotesque, which isn’t on its own a problem. I mean, this is a horror comic after all. But some moments, such as one of the grave-robbers licks the warm toilet-bowl that Maribel has just used, are 100% creepy and gross, but not played up enough to justify their inclusion in the narrative. It just sort of makes you scrunch up your nose and go “blech”.
Art-wise, props must be given to Dee Cunniffe, who really makes the whole comic with her unique color choices. Straight from the get-go it’s the colors that transfixed me and sold me on the book, taking the established horror tropes (serial killer family, spooky graveyard), and making them feel new with this sickly dark, over-saturated sheen that I haven’t ever really seen before in a horror story. With story developments, it seems like Issue #2 promises some horrifying psychedelic visuals, and I’m really looking forward to what the entire creative team has in store for us.
BUY. If you enjoy horror comics, check out Gravetrancers. The concept of a drug made from the human remains is a sickly, grotesque one, and the creative team does it justice.