When I was growing up, there were woods about a quarter mile from my family’s house. The woods bordered a major road on one side and a residential area on the other, but there was just always something that felt off about them. My friends and I would shy away from them when we were walking around them, and stay away from the whole area if it was dark out. And under no circumstances did we ever go into the woods. It wasn’t that they were haunted, we said. Of course they weren’t haunted — ghosts aren’t real! There’s nothing in there except a few deer and squirrels. But we still never set foot in there, to this day.
Bog Bodies is about these woods. Not the ones where I grew up, and not even a specific bog in Ireland — it’s about the creepy woods in your hometown, the place where you logically knew you wouldn’t get hurt but illogically stayed away from anyway. A kid who’s made some really terrible decisions has no choice but to run for his life through the bog, where nothing is dangerous yet nothing feels safe. Obviously, the book isn’t really about the bog, but the bog is how we connect to it. You may not be able to remember it right now, but Bog Bodies will remind you of your own personal bog. The scary, innocuous place you couldn’t help but stay away from.
If it’s not clear by now, more than anything else this book is a triumph of tonal storytelling. There’s a mood throughout the whole thing that’s not pure horror, but somewhere on the road to it. It’s constantly tense and there’s a pervasive sense of fear as you’re thrust into the shoes of a kid who just wants to survive the night. Killian’s sense of desperation gives each scene this constant frenetic energy as he can’t ever stop moving, for fear of being caught and killed.
Gavin Fullerton’s heavy inks mixed with Rebecca Nalty’s grim, moody colors are a massive part of what makes this comic work as well as it does. This isn’t a glamorous world with supermodel-attractive characters running through the woods with the readers understanding that everyone’s going to come out the other side with a happy ending. The characters here are a bunch of nobodies who will probably all die horrible deaths at some point or another, whether it’s in this story or not. Fullerton does an excellent job portraying this throughout the comic — there are so many zoomed out shots of the characters as small specks in the middle of a bog that takes up the entire panel that you can’t help but feel how minuscule they are in the face of the world they inhabit.
I haven’t talked much about the writing in the book, but that’s because I feel like it’s something that can’t be properly experienced unless you’re actually reading the full comic. Shalvey’s words and script tie the entire book together to paint a vivid picture of the underside of Ireland. It’s a world that someone like me, who’s never visited Ireland, wouldn’t think to associate with the place, but is both familiar and unique. Bog Bodies is exquisite in how it achieves what it sets out to do, and is an incredibly fresh book no matter how much horror or crime comics you read.