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'The Butcher's Boy' #1 cuts right to the chase with a novel slice of horror

Comic Books

‘The Butcher’s Boy’ #1 cuts right to the chase with a novel slice of horror

‘The Butcher’s Boy’ rings both familiar and just inventive enough for true horror fans.

When I interviewed the pair back in March, writer Landry Q. Walker and artist Justin Greenwood hyped The Butcher’s Boy to the moon. With an elevator pitch like if you “took the cast of Friday the 13th and gave them all acid right when the knives came out,” and comparisons to “Midsommar meets Evil Dead,” it was easy to buy into this road trip gone awry. But could the book itself make good on those bloody good promises, or was it instead bound for the butcher’s block from page one?

As it turns out, The Butcher’s Boy has already started to prove itself as a cut above some of its more immediate competition.

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For one, I think it’s the overall structuring that helps this book quite a bit. That begins with the story itself, in which a group of friends visit the near-ghost town of La Perdita/Silverfalls to chase the legend of The Butcher (and his titular offspring, of course). In that way, it starts out like a lot of proper horror stories, but from that, there’s decisions made quickly to really set this story apart. That includes how the town’s been “reduced to morbid clickbait folklore for bored travelers to share online,” which gets at ideas of inequality, the awful encroach of social media into everyday life, notions of overtourism (and just generally feckless tourists in our day and age), and cultural insensitivity. And those are married to some really solid interpersonal turmoil within the group, which includes bickering friends and failed situationships.

All of that together, then, gives The Butcher’s Boy a level of humanity you don’t see enough of in horror. They’re not stupid, horny teens about to get totally murdered — they’re normal teens with real-world problems about to get totally murdered. We see the way that these people engage in a manner that’s refreshingly organic — it’s about creating connection and also tension because that’s how people really are with one another. There’s layers and texture to their interactions, and we’re invited to see how it develops in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. That very thread of humanity informs not only why we care about these people, but some of their reactions when the -ish really starts to hit the fans.

'The Butcher's Boy' #1 cuts right to the chase with a novel slice of horror

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Not that it takes too long for the madness to commence. The art team (Greenwood joined by colorist Brad Simpson and letteter Pat Brosseau) launches what has to be my favorite opening in a comic in quite some time. You’ll see it in the preview pages spread across this review, but it’s a genius bit of storytelling, structuring, and juxtaposition that 1) creates the explosion of energy and violence you want in all great horror and 2) does wonders to show us who these people are in the very worst moments of their young lives.

Perhaps it might feel a touch spoiler-y knowing all of this before having read the actual issue, but I think it’s nonetheless a deeply effective introduction to The Butcher’s Boy. It’s a snapshot of how tight and cohesive this book is, and the way it goes right for the throat with optimal blood loss and robust humanity/emotionality alike. You can likely tell coming into this book that the teens are going to die, but this approach/method turns that from a less cliched/hacky gimmick into something that treats this violence as both a serious threat and offering keen perspective into the real horrors of this book (read: the teenage drama and deep personal histories).

The Butcher's Boy

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

It also helps that the look and the feel of the book is solid outside of this opening “montage.” I think the pairing of Greenwood and Simpson (which I loved dating back to Crone) works really well to once more both lean into and avoid certain energies and ideas within horror. Outside of the sheer brutality of the opener, we get little hints of horror, like a pack of bloody dogs or the shadowy faces of some locals, and all of that hints at the group’s immersion into this world they don’t fully understand (and yet they march on regardless, which is thematically appropriate).

And outside of the actual violence, the town itself is really interesting; it’s got a Wild West meets ghost town vibe that merges into this terrain that feels weird and multifaceted, and that’s a really great place to play around with these rather specific ideas and themes.

If I had one larger criticism of this debut, it’s that the world can feel a touch empty at times. Aside from some solid moments, it still felt like the group was operating on their own in some abandoned movie set. And that took at least partially away from that otherwise great baseline humanity of this book, and made it feel like as much as the book was commenting on, say, social disconnect, the authors were also slightly guilty of perpetuating that on their own.

The Butcher's Boy

Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

Sure, it came in the name of building and developing the book, but I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted even more from the world itself. That if the group had plugged in to the town proper, maybe we’d get even more chances to explore their respective dynamics, or to see how the town works and how that informs what happens down the line in their weekend visit. But it’s early enough that we can let it go, and based on what we know of the book’s larger plans, we won’t have to worry about the group not interacting with the big bad or the townsfolk for very long.

Toward the end of our interview, Greenwood noted how “no one is safe in La Perdita.” And I think that speaks not only for the group and the town and whatnot, but maybe even for readers of The Butcher’s Boy. Because it’s clear (despite some mostly tiny issues) that this book is going to be a horror story and mystery like few others, even if that distinction is only in its efficiency, unwavering brutality, and all-around humanity.

Maybe it won’t be the most gory or the most over-the-top or the most innovative, but it will be endlessly and completely itself, and that’s certainly what we could use more of with horror stories. Just don’t take my word (or even that of the creators) — tear into The Butcher’s Boy yourself and enjoy the feast.

'The Butcher's Boy' #1 cuts right to the chase with a novel slice of horror
‘The Butcher’s Boy’ #1 cuts right to the chase with a novel slice of horror
The Butcher's Boy #1
'The Butcher's Boy' is for fans of blood and guts, old-school serial killers and folklore, and emotionality as sharp as a hunting knife.
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
There's a brutal efficiency to the debut that sets everything on the right path pronto.
The art manages to give us great gore as much as it also hints and teases vital things to come.
I love the emphasis on the group dynamics and the robust thematic interplay.
The group feels a touch disconnected from the world, and that could be an issue down the road.
7.5
Good
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