Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #90 by Drew Barth
The Spooks Begin Now
There’s good horror comics out there right now—namely work like Something is Killing the Children and The Low, Low Woods—but it’s always good to see a new one beginning so close to Halloween. This year, we have one of Vault Comics’ newest series to terrify. Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan, Jason Wordie, and Jim Campbell come together for The Autumnal, a series already steeped in atmospheric dread and we’re only one issue in.
The first issue of The Autumnal begins with one of my favorite horror tropes: a dying relative leaving a house for the down-on-their-luck protagonist. This works so well since the protagonist is always reluctant—they’re entering into an unknown town and into an unknown house. The Autumnal plays with this trope in a fun way as our protagonist, Kat Somerville, isn’t going into an unknown town or house and she’s not doing so reluctantly. Trudy, Kat’s mother, has left for her her childhood home in her childhood town after years of not speaking to one another. And Kat is already on the way out of her current apartment due to late rent and her daughter, Sybil, having some issues at school. This should be Kat’s ticket out of her old life and into something potentially more stable in the town of Comfort Notch, and yet foreboding kicks in hard.
The Autumnal creates at continuous feeling of dread thanks in large part to the colors of Jason Wordie. The book looks like a bruise—the deep purples and greens building up a sense of unease and darkness through every page. Kat’s world looks as though it’s been through the worst and these colors reflect that—from her home to Sybil’s school to the bus ride out of town. But this all ends with the splash-page whiplash of Kat and Sybil entering Comfort Notch for the first time and seeing the palette explode into fall foliage and blue skies, a moment to catch your breath after pages of quiet discomfort.
What makes The Autumnal so interesting as a horror series is the way it builds its unease and its dread. This is a bloodless issue—no gore, no loss of limbs. And yet there is a terror building in the background, something Kat can’t see right away but can hear in children’s rhymes she hasn’t thought about since she was nine. This is the kind of terror that is going to burn slowly.
Get excited. Get spooked.
Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.