The Belfry

Writer/Artist: Gabriel Hardman
Publisher: Image Comics

A review by Christoph Staffl

Sometimes there are comics that manage to take you completely by surprise. As you scroll down the new comics of the week, there is something that catches your eye. Might it be a great cover or just an interesting and catching title. The Belfry, a one-shot horror comic, met both of those criteria perfectly. Therefore I did not really know what to expect. And, to be honest, it is a horror comic and I wanted to be surprised. Last night then I sat down in my room, it was 11:30 pm and slightly raining outside. The perfect atmosphere for some horror.

I will not tell you anything about the story, because I want you to have a similar experience. So I would not dare to tell you, that it takes place in 18th century England (why not?) and the plot mainly focuses on a love affair between a lion and a gorilla, who met in a zoo – just kidding, but it sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? But seriously, the structure of the story is simple and it unfolds perfectly through this simplicity. There are no subplots or unnecessary conversations. Just our protagonist and his experiences throughout this issue. Talking about the protagonists: I welcome comics, which are brave enough to cut out unneeded narration and dialogue. This way you, the reader, can decide what is going on in the heads of the characters and in the process get a clearer image of them. No one is telling you, how you have to think about a specific situation. You get just the drawings and interactions, the rest is totally up to you. But I have to say, the facial expressions of the protagonist says more than a thousand words could describe. You can feel the terror that is going on and hope, everyone gets out safely.

Throughout the story there are some pretty gorey moments, but amidst beautifully drawn action sequences. They are dark, detailed and dynamic. By dynamic I mean that you can almost see the motions taking shape on the pages themselves, like in a movie*. It is incredible how he controls the pace of the narration with this style. Gabriel Hardman works with a lot of “sound effects”, too. Screeching, screaming and howling sounds make the comic just more frightening, especially in the way they are presented.

*Editor’s note: this makes a lot of sense as Hardman does storyboards in film and has worked on pretty much every remotely geeky movie you’ve ever seen.

As a bonus you will get sketches and reading recommendations regarding of other horror books, as well as a glimpse into the developing process through the last years. The Belfry is a truly complete reading experiences and does not leave any wishes unfulfilled

The Verdict
Buy it! Now! It is a perfect one-shot. What does that mean exactly? Well, most importantly The Belfry tells a self contained story, everything in it has its place and a right to exist. The author also creates a whole new mythos and to do something like that in about 22 pages is incredible. But, the one thing that made it worth reading the most, is the ending – I still cannot believe it…

Christoph Staffl

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