Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #167 by Drew Barth
Halloween in March
Did you know it’s only seven more months until Halloween? Good horror comics have come out already, like every month is Halloween. Pentagram of Horror! by Marco Fontanili brings in a classic horror feeling. With only the first issue out, we can already see the seeds of its terror.
“My Own Hell” is the first of five stories Fontanili has crafted for Pentagram of Horror and centers on an unnamed protagonist who bargains his soul to the Devil for the talent to create great art for ten years. At the end of the ten years, his soul is then forfeit. But for those ten years, the unnamed man does nothing. Burdened with the idea of the oncoming deadline, he is frozen in his own artistic hell as his work wasn’t being bought and had received no recognition. The Devil then comes to collect. But in a Twilight Zone-esque twist, we discover that this has happened before. This man has been living out the day the Devil had come to collect his soul over and over for years and was made to forget at the end of each day all so the Devil could watch the man’s horror again and again.
Pentagram of Horror is a mature series that abounds in the blood of its characters, but is also a subtle series. Due to Fontanili’s coloring choice, the blood and the gore look muted. We see our main character torn to shreds across multiple pages with hooks and chains, but it isn’t so visceral as to just be gore-porn. There is a subtlety to this gore instead achieved through a combination of the muted color palette, zoomed in panels that present the worst of the violence in an abstract, and heavy shading where we can only really see shapes. It’s an incredibly clever way to present the audience with something horrifying, but keeping them just far enough away that they can’t get a full glimpse of it. The horror comes both from the story and the unknown torture in the same vein as the titular Alien barely being seen in its own film.
Pentagram of Horror is a callback to the pre-code pulps and horror series that relied on shocking their audiences with depictions of the most ghastly gore possible. But Fontanili is able to more beyond simple facsimile and into a new horror vein with this anthology. It’s the gore without the gratuitousness; it’s the spooks without cheap titillation. This is horror that’s able to take its own nostalgia and apply it to modern comic storytelling and sensibilities. That’s really what a good horror series should be doing now.
Get excited. Get spooked.