Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #219: A Neighborly Spirit

There’s a terror in changing, even more so when it involves the home. We think of our homes as the safest places we can be—it’s where, for the most part, we’re allowed to let ourselves simply be without the outside world creeping in. But then we have to move. The world has already seeped into this new place that could be “home” later but is very much not home now. We move into this new house and neighborhood and everything isn’t quite what we expect, especially with neighbors that have certain expectations of who moves in. That discomfort and terror is what lies at the center of Jude Ellison S. Doyle, Letizia Cadonici, Alessandro Santoro, and Becca Carey’s first issue of The Neighbors.

The Gowdie family move into a new house in a new neighborhood, presumably far from their old lives. As readers, we already see what the family doesn’t as the first two pages give us a prologue of something that happened in and around their new home decades ago. What this thing is, we’re still not completely sure as we’re only really able to see a bundle of vines and sticks in the shape of a body. This provides an appropriate tone as we get a quick introduction to Janet, Oliver, Casey, and Isobel as we move through the house, their new neighborhood, and their new town. While not at each other’s throats, we do see the rumblings of tension within the family while together, but we also see how Oliver takes his role as a new father to Casey when she disappears into the woods after strange figures appear at their home in the middle of the night.

From that first two page prologue, the team here expertly craft a sense of unease and dread that almost drips off the pages. From Oliver’s fears of being clocked by their neighbor to tensions with their daughter, Casey, to the odd people that show up to the house in the middle of the night, there’s never a moment that feels like we can let our shoulders down. Every moment we see the family together feels like they’re being rejected by wherever they are, exacerbated by Casey’s rejection of Oliver, a trans man, as her new father. It holds that line between the deeply personal fears of Oliver and Janet’s relationship in a small town in the middle of nowhere and the unseen paranormal activity that seems to radiate from their new home.

The Neighbors does what any good horror series should in the beginning: it gives us our characters, gives us their dynamic, and quickly instills a deep dread within us. Doyle, Cadonici, Santoro, and Carey ratchet up that dread in such small doses throughout that you don’t notice how tense your shoulders have become by the final page. Many of the best horror comics out now work in this same, subtly creepy way, and it’s the kind of style that can hopefully keep going in comics for a long while. 

Get excited. Get dreadful.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.

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