Shadows on the Grave #1 (of 8)
Writer/Artist/Letterer: Richard Corben
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse
A review by Amelia Wellman
It’s the Christmas season and you know what that means: it’s time for a good scary story! No, I don’t have the wrong holiday! A bit of horror on Christmas Eve is a British tradition, so just go with it while I review this amazing new horror comic anthology Shadows on the Grave #1, okay?
Richard Corben, the master of supernatural horror, is back with eight issues of 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.
I love a good scary story, I think I’ve made that abundantly clear with nearly every single thing I’ve done in my life, so of course my interest was piqued with this new Dark Horse venture. Huge lover of horror Guillermo del Toro even offers up this quote about Corben: “[Corben is] one of the most precise and admirable storytellers in the medium.” That’s glowing praise, and I’m about to give him some more!
There are four short comics within Shadows on the Grave #1: “Strung Along” about a mysterious puppet show, “Roots in Hell” about a shipwrecked couple, “For Better or Worse” about a murder that doesn’t quite get the job done, and “Denaeus: Dreams and Portents” which takes place in Ancient Greece and will continue in the next issue. Each vignette is brief and mysterious with many questions raised but few of them answered. It gives off a very Clive Barker’s Books of Blood vibe in that nothing ever really comes to a happy ending but you’re still satisfied with the narrative.
Each vignette is introduced by Mag the Hag, a big nosed, eye patch wearing character. He serves as the main exposition dump since each comic is so short. It feels very Twilight Zone in its introductions and that gives you exactly the right tone to read through the tales of misery and macabre with. Interestingly, Corben has Mag the Hag include a mission statement of the classic scary story tropes he hopes to hit within the issue. It’s interesting to read through the list and imagine how the tropes are going to be interrupted in the coming stories
The art of Shadows on the Grave #1 is Corben’s own style. It’s creepy, grotesque, unsettling, disturbing; go ahead and choose an adjective that describes discomfort and it applies here. And oh how I love it! Nothing is overtly gory or violent, just eerie and freaky. Along with the introductions of themes by Mag the Hag, Corben also introduces the comic by explaining his choice of black, white, and grey tones, as they create and express a special unity and mood. The mood created is bleak, dreary, and just so perfect!
Buy it! Guillermo del Toro was not exaggerating when he said Richard Corben is one of the most precise storytellers in the medium of comics. Shadows on the Grave #1 goes on to prove it all over again. If you like horror, from Clive Barker to the Twilight Zone and everything in between, you’ll love Shadows on the Grave #1.
Shadows on the Grave #1 will be available December 14th, 2016.