Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
When it comes to horror comics, no matter what scary ideas that writers can come up with, the key to getting the chills when reading horror through sequential art is the art itself. Horror, in many forms, should be defined by imagery that should stick with you, even if you’re trying to sleep. Comics like Infidel and Blue in Green, both of which published by Image, have art styles that lean into abstract imagery, taking situations we are familiar with and leading them to a horrific, surreal conclusion. That’s what’s at the core of The Silver Coin, a horror anthology that is entirely drawn by Michael Walsh. With a different writer tackling each of the five issues, we see the eponymous cursed coin travel over the ages and how its influence plagued the lives of numerous people.
The first of these stories is written by Chip Zdarsky, who previously collaborated with Walsh on one of the best issues of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man. Set in 1978, “The Ticket” centers on a punk band that is not getting anywhere and when its lead vocalist Ryan finds an old coin that once belonged to her mother, who abandoned him and his father years ago, suddenly luck is on the side of the band and success is at their reach… or so they thought. Although the main character is unlikeable and was already on a self-destructive path, the story is essentially a Monkey’s Paw scenario with a punk rock twist as Walsh revels in the aggression that comes from this particular music scene, especially in the last pages where playing hard on the guitar is really not good for your fingers.
Although the other writers could’ve easily embraced the Monkey’s Paw angle that would’ve made the whole book feel derivative, they lean into other known horror traits for the stories they want to tell, such as Kelly Thompson’s “Girls of Summer”, a deliberate homage to summer-camp slashers of the ‘80s. When Fiona gets bullied during her time at the summer camp by other girls, she tries to escape, only to discover a small cabin where she finds a coin that influences her to go on a killing spree in the style of the slasher films she watches. Along with the deliberate references to this particular subgenre, Michael Walsh is at his best here showing graphic depictions of murder, as well as the terrifying appearance of an innocent girl-turned-killer.
A change of narrative and the use of the coin occurs in “Death Rattle”, written by Ed Brisson, who worked with Walsh on Comeback. Following the aftermath of a break-in, which resulted in the death of an elderly homeowner, three young people tried to escape from their misfortunes, only for one of them to possess the coin that will lead them to their fate. It may seem odd that the issue opens right in the middle of a crime, this is where we start to see more about what the coin is about.
Considering that the majority of stories are rooted in familiar horror tropes, Jeff Lemire’s “2467” feels like the outsider. As you likely guessed from the title, this one is set in the distant future. When cyber criminals are chased by a police drone, one of them finds herself in the ruins of the old city, where she finds, yes, a silver coin that she uses to locate the policeman that’s been after them. Although this doesn’t reveal any more about the Coin’s mystery as previous issues and is more of a case of Lemire doing his own thing, it does allow Walsh to think outside the box by leaning into the iconography that you associate with cyberpunk from the dystopian city, the cybernetics of its characters, riding their high tech street bikes. In terms of applying a horror twist to these sci-fi surroundings, Walsh creepily evokes imagery that is reminiscent of Shinya Tsukamoto’s movie, Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Outside of the coin, also connecting these stories is some recurring imagery, from the cabin introduced in “Girls of Summer” to a crow that flies near anyone plagued by the coin. All is explained in the finale “Covenant” that Walsh wrote as well as drew, in which we see the origins of the Coin that goes back to the times of witch-hunting during the 17th century.
As always with anthology comics, some stories are better than others, and even though the overall volume doesn’t do anything groundbreaking with its horror format, Michael Walsh’s striking art makes the narratives a compelling enough read.
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