“The world is empty and full of nothing.”
Think about that for a second. What if internalizing and believing that mantra was the only thing that could ensure your survival? Resonant at its core is about survival and offers a deep look at coping with trauma and mental health in the face of adversity and isolation. David Andry, Alejandro Aragon, Jason Wordie, and Deron Bennett are a fresh creative team with a lot of cool ideas that elevate the survival horror genre. I’m not even sure if this book can be classified under that genre after just one issue, and there are a number of paths this story could take.
Vault Comics has been employing a number of really smart marketing techniques throughout their books, and one of them is giving their comics short pitches or taglines on the back cover. Resonant’s is “Our worst impulses unleashed,” and that’s scary as hell. Before even turning to page one, the terrifying thought of what you might do if the depths of your subconscious were to uncontrollably surface is enough to make you hesitate.
Nevertheless, you open the issue and are treated to something… rather pleasant, actually. You see a child’s hands planting a seed, the sun is shining, and she seems happy. Aragon’s use of various patterns and textures create a lot of really cool layers here, with Bec and the Earth sort of existing in the foreground, the trees in the midground, and the sky in the background. This layering effect continues throughout the issue and exists in various forms. In the larger splash pages, almost everything is textured like it’s in the foreground so the reader can absorb the full image and all of its weight. Other times, small details are accented so that they’re the first elements that pop into your head. After reading page one, you may have a number of thoughts going through your head, but one of them isn’t likely to be “horror.”
It’s a beautiful display of innocence intelligently interrupted on page two. The creative team walks you through the shattering truth that not all is perfect through a series of inset panels. At first, Bec yells back to her father, “Be right there, dad!” and everything is still right with the world. Then you move to the panel showing the braces on the ground. You probably aren’t sure what they are yet, so you might be a bit confused or curious. As she puts them on and and the first brace raises of the ground, your head is probably filling with questions. What happened? Is she injured? Your eyes move downward to the large images that fill the page and you realize that Bec’s left leg is missing at the knee you probably involuntarily mutter a soft “oh no” under your breath. By the end of page two, two things are made very clear. 1. This creative team isn’t just mapping a narrative, a plot, or characters — it’s mapping your emotional response panel by panel. 2. It’s working. They’re playing you like a fiddle and you can’t do anything about it.
We don’t often see characters with physical disabilities represented in comics, and it is done so here in a really great way. It’s clearly something that is a part of Bec, and something that she has to live with every day, but it doesn’t define her, and that’s a great mindset in which to tell someone’s unique experience or identity. As Bec returns to the house, we see that it’s isolated in a larger forest, but it’s quaint. Wordie’s colors are vibrant and create the sense that, while there’s a constant lingering worry, happiness isn’t always absent from their lives. Unfortunately, while the home is happy, the dialogue is not. It is anxious and cautious. Hearing the conversation between Bec and her dad, you get the sense that this is a family that survives and can’t always afford to truly live. There’s a lot of love in this home, but also a lot of worry, and they’ve had to make do with that lifestyle.
It’s heartwarming to see a family portrayed like this in a comic, at least in the beginning. We don’t often see the tight-knit bond that Paxton and his kids have, and for the moment, it’s nice. Paxton’s a great father who will brave whatever he needs to in order to take care of his kids. I’m sure he didn’t know all of these survival tips before the waves hit, but he learned quickly for the sake of his family. As he leaves to go get medicine for Steph, you’re really able to see how big this world has become. Aragon depicts these beautiful and natural landscapes with lush flora and towering trees. He adds a lot of miscellaneous swirls and other textures to his line work which bring the panels to life.
Beyond the bubble that Paxton and his kids live in, however, the world is a much different place. As he comes to his first road, we see cars and trucks abandoned everywhere. It resembles a wasteland and fills you with worry. The outside world may look natural and calm, but it’s full of danger. You begin to get even more on edge when this shady stranger appears. He comes out from behind an abandoned truck looking like Victor Zsasz with all the cuts on his body. It’s around now that the book begins to invoke involuntary vocal responses from you like all good horror properties do. “Don’t get any closer,” you’ll shout, as this guy turns on the waterworks. He’s really trying to play to Paxton’s pathos, but you know better. The phrase “trust no one” has suddenly never been more accurate. Once again the creative team uses inset panels to put you in Paxton’s world and develop an emotional response. At first, we’re right there with Paxton. We see this guy and we don’t trust him. Our eyes focus in on the knife attached to his hip and we’re like, “whoa” and take a couple steps back. Then we see his eyes, filled with pain, begin to tear up and we begin to soften. But that’s weakness and we can’t have any of that, so we stay on our guard and move forward.
When the wave starts to hit, we know we were right. The turn is so sudden and fierce. Bennett’s lettering really shines through here with the incessant chirps filling entire panels and pages. Aragon’s textures become more intense and the background gets more amorphous. By the end of the issue, the background has a spraypaint looking quality to it. Wordie’s colors explode in a fiery frenzy of reds and oranges. It’s a beautiful swirling chaos of color as the wave permeates through everything, and though stunning to look at, it invokes horror. It’s almost like Wordie set entire pages ablaze. We’ve never experienced a wave before, but we aren’t idiots. This is bad. This is very, very bad.
If you weren’t sitting upright on the edge of your seat while reading this issue before, you certainly are now. You anxiously cry out at Ty trips (someone always trips) and joyously shout in triumph as Bec is able to throw him inside. She really is a great older sister and an overall badass. The quaint, comfortable house now looks scary as hell, as though it’s caked in blood. The only way to resist at this point is to clear your mind. “The world is empty and full of nothing.” This meditation may have saved Paxton, but it’s too late for Bec. Bennett provides really cool lettering effects that make it appear as though something is gnawing away at the letters in the same way the wave gnaws at Bec’s mind. The final splash exudes pain and anguish. It’s true horror.
By the end of the issue, one thing becomes clear. With Resonant #1, David Andry, Alejandro Aragon, Jason Wordie, and Deron Bennett have already done the most important thing in comics: They’ve made you care.