Basilisk has a lot going on, so much so that each issue feels somehow content-dense, the comic book equivalent of gruesome calorie-rich brownie. It’s a book that’s featured one no-holds-barred massacre per issue — a trend carried on in issue #3 — and, somehow, these horrifying acts of violence have never been the most memorable aspect of the issue or the story at large.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Basilisk #3!
The Chimera are a group of super-powered beings, each with a sense-based gift for murdering people — the ability to make someone crave the taste of human flesh, say. These five characters—their origins, their purpose, their story — is the central mystery to the book, but the book is not their story. Instead, we follow vengeance-driven Hannah, whose family was killed upon Chimera’s initial massacre, some several years earlier. She’s ‘captured’ one of Chimera, Regan (whose very vision kills), and intends to trick the rest of the group into a violent showdown.
There’s a strange tone of road-tripping in the series, and issue #3 doubles down on it — not only are Hannah and Regen on the road, but so too are the rest of the Chimera. It’s a roadside rest stop swath of violence they cut, their victims fry cooks and truck stop patrons. It’s the latter crew this issue spends most of its time with, slowly allowing us to come to know them after two issues experiencing them on the fringes of the narrative. They’ve got a dysfunctional found family vibe that has a touch of 1970s post-flower children to it — they each have their ‘thing’, whether that thing be Puritan Pulpit Chic, flower power headband, or tough-guy, sleeves-rolled-up work shirt and aviators. In such a way, they — and the book — share a bit of cultural DNA with cult horror films of that era. They are a superpowered, modern Texas Chainsaw Massacre family of crazies, a micro-community developing its own fringe morals. Those morals disregard people, take little stock in the value of human lives.
Issue #3 hammers home the reason for this: they believe themselves to be some sort of gods, their powers giving creed to a cultish dogma they’re curating. Last issue we met a lone follower who, initially, could have been disregarded as a single nutjob. This issue confirms their tactics: leave at least one survivor at every killing field so that there’s someone to spread their violent gospel.
Indeed, when we return to our central narrative, Regen confirms to Hannah that this is their way — and that, from the point of view of the Chimera, Hannah’s obsession counts as a form of unwholesome worship.
All of this may seem overwhelming, too many high concepts wrapped up in explosions and character work, but the book never falls into sensory overload. Exposition and illustrations of power arrive naturally, and the book’s pace never stutters. Basilisk is a comic that moves inexorably forward, never once stumbling or misrepresenting what it is: a high concept custom-made for its medium. Each chapter provides just the right balance of action to information, a balance that might not move so smoothly in a different format.
Part of this clarity of flow lies in the look of the book, which refuses the cluttered, claustrophobic, and dark overtures of horror. Artist Jonas Scharf and colorist Alex Guimarães have elevated the visuals of the book well beyond many horror books on the shelves; not only our characters carefully considered and stylized, they populate a vibrant and naturalistic rural South that feels earnest, experienced. The drabness of a rest area breathes with late summer humidity, while a cabin in the woods feels so lush you can nearly hear the thrum of insects; this, too, feels rooted in the bright, naturalistic cinematography of the 1970s. Scenes of Chimera’s mysterious beginnings lay in impressionistic night scenes, but the brutality of the current action goes fully lit under a heavy sun.
With its neo-nostalgic overtones and thoroughly modern concepts of genre, Basilisk #3 savors its own story rather than overplaying its violence, style, or slow reveal of information. This book almost celebrates itself with how much care it has been given, and it’s a rare respite of brightness in the darker corridors of the comic book store.
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