Image Comics’ success over the years in a diverse range of creator-owned comics opened the door for other publishers, proving that you don’t need to rival the big two — just produce your own library with creators doing their own thing. It doesn’t have to be about super-powered spandex. As someone who has never read any title from Vault Comics, which publishes original, creator-owned science fiction and fantasy works, my readership can only be enhanced, starting with the inaugural title of Vault’s new Nightfall line, focusing on tales of horror.
Written by Tim Daniel & Michael Moreci – both of whom have co-authored other horror comics – and drawn by Joshua Hixson, The Plot centers on Chase Blaine, who receives the tragic news of his estranged brother sister-in-law’s murder. Becoming the guardian to McKenzie and Zach, the niece and nephew he hardly knows, Chase moves them to his ancestral home in Cape Augusta, which overlooks a deep, black bogland teeming with family secrets.
From a haunted house that reeks of dark family secrets to a creep bogland that would make Swamp Thing feel at home, this book screams horror. In fact, if you are well-versed in horror, the central dilemma will be familiar and thus some of the characterization and plot threads may feel somewhat unoriginal. A lot of the horror is driven by history, specifically the Blaine’s family history, in that every generation goes through some form of mental illness. Integrating this family curse with a supernatural element is interesting and does lead to some chilling set-pieces, but the book suddenly just ends. I get if you want to do a cliffhanger to ramp up readers’ expectations for the upcoming conclusion, but the ending here hasn’t given us answers and you’re just left in utter frustration.
One of the things that saves The Plot is the solid characterization, and even though the writers don’t always know how to handle everyone in the cast, particularly the two children, they every character has a voice that compels us enough that we hope none of them is harmed. More about the adults than the children, Chase is your classic horror protagonist in that he is a flawed figure who is constantly running away from his problems and when tragedy strikes and he suddenly has to take care of these two children, he has to step up and becoming a loving guardian, even if the problems of the past continue to haunt him.
The other savior of the comic is the art of Joshua Hixson, whose style fits perfectly in the realm of horror comics. The art isn’t highly-detailed and some pages can look rough around the edges, but with his simplistic character designs and murky surroundings (with a great emphasis on shadows), it adds to this uneasy atmosphere where the horror can appear at any moment, whether it is psychological or physical, the latter of which represented through a freakish monster and a couple of zombie-looking ghosts.
Despite a frustrating cliffhanger, there is enough excitement around how The Plot will conclude. As for this initial volume, there is an engagement to be had with its story and characters, plunging into a horrifying scenario.