The horror anthology The Silver Coin returns this week, drawn by Michael Walsh with a rotating writing team joined by Jeff Lemire. Set in the future, the opening crawl on the credits page reads “A curse needs to feed 2467,” and it sure does in this dystopian cyberpunk edition. It was recently revealed the fourth issue isn’t the last, and for good reason: It’s good horror comics. A cursed object has shown throughout this series that it can be the death of a person, but maybe that fleeting moment of power and success is worth it. Or maybe not.
What you see is very much what this comic book is about. The Silver Coin #4 opens with darkness and in its second panel, a close-up of an eyeball is seen. Pulling away we see more of the eye, and finally a crowded public place. A drone hovers over them and we can read through captions a communication is taking place. It’s bright, clean, and the people seem relatively peaceful. Soon we follow this drone up and over a wall to see it is a facade and outside this wall is muck, refuse, and a very dystopian landscape.
While the narrative pulls out to reveal truths about the landscape, we soon pull back into the eye. It appears in this future people can remove an eye-covering to let drip tendrils from the socket to hack into other people’s minds. A few street thugs are shaking down an average Joe — albeit he’s a bit mutated — for some cash. These thugs have a futuristic design, not unlike something you’d see in Mad Max. Instead of this robbery taking place in a brightly lit desert, however, they stand in the shadows amongst dirt and muck. Soon the drone introduced earlier in the issue finds them though, some kind of police technology, and the thugs are running for their lives.
This is a compelling issue thanks to the symbology of the eye, of probing deeper, and the story physically going deeper still. The protagonist flees, but in this rushing for her life, she finds something she thinks she wants. The pace of the story is brisk, never letting you catch up to the characters and also keeping you guessing. There are visual homages here and there (at least one Akira reference that I spotted), all leading to an ending that’s clever and thought-provoking.
Walsh’s art is the strongest element of the book, keeping the pace perfectly matched with the mystery at hand. Aided by Toni Marie Griffin on colors, Walsh once again proves through this series how versatile his art can be. The book is never verbose through captions or dialogue, and much of the thrill comes from how the art moves your own eye across the page.
Nothing is overtly given to the reader, but there’s enough here to start making guesses as to what happened to this world and what may happen next. In that way, the narrative ends up being truly haunting and unnerving. There’s no telling what may happen when the comic ends, nor is there quite enough to know what the ghostly figures are going to do either. Its strengths lie in its obtuseness.
The Silver Coin #4 is haunting, striking, and scary on multiple levels, but even better, it’s thought-provoking. It’s a comic book that feels complex and rewarding if you let it, but simple enough to enjoy simply reading from panel to panel.
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