Horror comes in many forms. There’s the supernatural and then there’s the terrible things that people do to each other, this week we take a look at both.
Writer: Zack & Nick Keller
Pencils: Joanna Estep
Publisher: Dark Horse
Number of issues: 6
Death Head is a simple enough premise – a couple on a hike stumble across an abandoned town and in that town, they find what is essentially a horror film set. Living in that town is a horror movie masked killer who drags bodies back to his lair to be cremated in a huge oven. The husband finds a spare mask, a Plague Doctor mask, and because he is “possessed” by it he experiences some startling visions that lead him to the heart of the mystery around the abandoned town and the killer.
The book starts relatively strongly with this premise, one that incorporates a mysterious plague that the killer is trying to contain and the history of the town as well as ghost that a character befriends, but the execution is lacking. The main characters consisting of the hikers and their kids are just not compelling enough to sympathise with. The daughter is the cliched terrible teen fighting with her mother because of her own insecurities and fear while the father is never fully developed beyond the means to advance the plot. His wife is reduced to concerned mother and the youngest is just the bullied kid whose ghostly friend helps fill in the lore gaps. Nothing about these characters makes you care about their lives or their potential deaths.
The supporting cast, too, is similarly two dimensional. The daughter’s friend is just that bad influence that scares the parents and one-character switches from a man making hard choices to protect his town to agent of vengeance so quickly that I got whiplash. The Plague Doctor, too, has very little characterisation and normally that would be fine because what characterisation does Michael Myers or Jason need? However, because the writers try and build a compelling reason for his actions you need more than we get to at least empathise with his actions and goals. But we get none of that and the big twist regarding him is not that interesting or shocking because of this.
Sadly Death Head is a comic with a great premise, but lacking in execution and never fulfilling the promise of what could’ve been a vey good horror comic.
Writer: Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill
Pencils: Isaac Goodheart
Publisher: Image Comics – Top Cow Productions
Number of issues: 27 (ongoing)
What if criminals decided to build a town where they could live in peace? Where they would police themselves and ensure that no one would hold their pasts against them? What happens when a monster from the past rears his head and shatters the fragile veneer of civility that the town relies on to keep the peace? That’s what you have with Postal a town run by criminals for criminals who are as ruthless in enforcing the law of the land as they were in committing their crimes.
The book follows Mark, the town’s postman, as he seeks to unravel the mystery around the monster his father was as well as the mysteries now coming to light such as the murder of the woman dumped in the middle of town that no one seems to know. Mark is single minded in his pursuit of answers bringing danger to himself and the town, a town desperately trying to escape it’s individual past as each and every resident is a retired criminal looking to live a quiet life and avoid the rough justice of their fellow citizen should they break the law. By necessity punishment is swift and brutal, one particular punishment in issue 4 is particularly savage, used to send a message to Mark’s father, himself something of a bogeyman for the town and especially Mark’s mother, the town’s mayor.
The book focuses less on crimes, punishments and mysteries and more on Mark’s journey from simple postman to someone more ruthless and the effect that his father has on the residents and their collective sense of right and wrong and guilt. The story is effective in dragging the reader along with Mark on this journey as he overcomes his own limitations. Mark’s journey is almost a hero’s journey just not in the traditional sense.
The atmosphere evoked by the writing and art is a noir-ish one, just set in modern small-town America with no one character, including Mark, free from fault or guilt. Each character has a secret to hide, something to fear and a reason to want to stay away from Mark’s father.
Postal is a book that will fascinate you as you try and keep up with the twists and turns in the plot always trying to guess where characters will end up and just who will be the next to face the town’s own version of justice.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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