What a treat! Talented artist Wes Craig has spent some time off of his beautiful regular series Deadly Class to bring us this lushly illustrated, full hardcover of new material just in time for Halloween. But this time, Wes isn’t only playing the part of artist but author as well of these three short new stories. Let’s dive in, shall we? Is it good?
Blackhand Comics HC (Image Comics)
Blackhand Comics is comprised of three unique stories that are in no way connected (save the narrator in all three) and are all exciting and fresh in their own ways. Therefore, I will split this review into three parts, reviewing each separate story individually. Here goes:
Story #1: The Gravedigger’s Union
The Gravedigger’s Union is the untold story of one of the most important (yet all but forgotten) players in the horror genre. I mean really, is there a single creepy story that doesn’t in some way lead back to the gravedigger? If a zombie or vampire comes back from the dead, who put them in the ground in the first place? If there is an epic showdown or suspenseful moment in a graveyard, who set up the graveyard so that it was neat and organized? And when a killer claims their victim, who buries them? The gravedigger.
The Gravedigger’s Union tells us all about what we don’t see about these overworked, exhausted men and women who spend their days (and nights) putting people in their final resting place. Brevity is a gift, especially in writing. The Gravedigger’s Union is a story told in under ten pages, which is impressive due to the fact that within those ten pages I was shocked, made to sympathize with characters and wowed by the artistic and organizational skills of the creator.
Wes packs a lot of emotion and drama into these few pages all without following one particular narrative. We see ferocious fights take place in the graveyard, examples of prejudice against these gravediggers and even a gravedigger having to kill someone of his own family. This is a wonderfully constructed story that is made even better by the stellar artwork.
Story #2: Circus Day
Circus Day tells the story of one young boy’s trip to the circus with his older sister. I don’t think this was intended to be a particularly scary story, per se, but it did have a lot of personality and was certainly a lot of fun to read.
The most interesting difference between Circus Day and The Gravedigger’s Union is the addition of color in the second one. As a result the art is much more expressive and Wes Craig is able to convey a lot more emotion. The animals are painted in lavish, exotic colors, and the clowns in vibrant hues that make everything more lively. The scene where the little boy peeps at the adults-only show is painted in dark reds that make the scene seem riskier and forbidden. Then when it starts to rain, and the boy visits the scarier exhibits, the mood shifts from wonder to fear and the world becomes dreary. This shift in palette is really brilliant, switching from a sense of exuberance to a dreariness to show the progression of the story.
Circus Day was clearly the main attraction of this hardcover collection and was definitely worth the price of admission alone; it is a well crafted, beautifully illustrated story that really shows off Wes’s talent as a storyteller.
Story #3: The Seed
The final story in Blackhand Comics is The Seed, a tale of a man who is running from a cult(?) who raised him up and is now hunting him down. It’s told in a weird stream of consciousness, shoddy narrative and illustrated with extremely dark, stylized panels that are truly frightening.
There’s a lot to like about The Seed. It was exciting, fast paced, and the freaky artwork was really awesome. However, I also thought that it tried a wee bit too hard to be risky. It just seemed like it wanted to be really dark and not give us a ton of backstory but it just didn’t have enough payoff to make it really worth it. I did enjoy reading it, it just didn’t seem nearly as satisfying as the first two stories.
Is It Good?
Yes, for sure. Blackhand Comics is recommended—if not required—Halloween reading. Make sure to check it out for some knock out art and some really gripping stories.
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