The majority of my work has a bit of a macabre appeal to it and I often like to think of my darker pieces as “nonfiction horror stories.” For this reason I guess I feel something of a connection to horror comics, although I’m not sure if my work would be classified as such in a traditional sense. This is why I was excited to receive a PDF preview copy of the Boston horror comics anthology Hellbound 2 to review. I already had a copy of Hellbound 1, which was a short anthology of single page horror stories that I enjoyed very much.
This second issue of the Hellbound series was published by Ninth Art Press in cooperation with River Bird Comics and the Boston Comics Roundtable. It features twelve creepy, gruesome, and, at times, humorous tales as well as a few single page illustrations fitting with their horror theme. The book includes work from several talented contributors with a wide range of visual and narrative styles. I was immediately drawn to Jesse Lonergan’s spectacular cover art, with its eye catching colors and fun, cartoony image of a car plunging wildly downwards – presumably, “hellbound” – filled with a hodgepodge of demons and ghouls… this reminded me somewhat of Ralph Steadman’s Fear and Loathing illustrations – another roadtrip gone horribly awry.
Among my favorite stories in Hellbound 2 was Clayton McCormack’s “Breath of Life,” which features some truly stunning artwork. His compositions are dramatic and painterly, with a foreboding quality. His representations of architectural spaces are at once illustrative and geometric, calling to mind German Expressionism. My only complaint is that the piece is lettered with a digital, serifed font – a harsh juxtaposition against McCormack’s fluid and expressive artwork and, in my opinion, a little hard to read.
While some of the pieces in this anthology are eerie and ominous tales, others were a bit more lighthearted and silly. Logan Faerber‘s “Grampire,” for instance, is a story about what you may have already surmised – a very old vampire! JL Bell and Andy Wong‘s “RobMeBlind.com” also stood out as one of the more humorous pieces. Funny and creative from the set up all the way through to the ending, this story takes a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the horror theme and is well complimented by a cartoony, and maybe even cute (although perhaps that’s not the right word in the context of this subject matter) visual style.
Linday Moore and Alex Cormack‘s “Dolly” is one of those classic horror stories featuring a babysitter in a dark house at night. As someone who has always feared being in a the-call-is-coming-from-inside-the-house type of situation, this story especially sent chills down my spine. Gabriel Robinson’s “The Red Calf,” had this effect as well. Inspired by an unusual urban legend, this piece blends just the right amount of gruesome and creepy, leaving me entirely sympathetic to the story’s superstitious characters. In addition to the obvious close attention to visual detail, the story showcases Robinson’s attention to verbal detail with quite adeptly composed dialogue. This was one of my favorite pieces in the book, and despite the artwork’s low level of contrast and, at times, busy page compositions, it captured a distinct backdrop for an excellent homage to this type of folklore. Here’s a short interview with the creator where she discusses the story and horror, in general.
Something else I really enjoyed from this collection was the series of single page illustrations scattered throughout the book. These range from simple to elaborate, charming to disturbing, but are all well-chosen pieces and a great addition to the anthology.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection of horror stories and hope that the Boston Comics Roundtable and their associated publishers continue making them. Hellbound 2 is tentatively set to release this weekend at the Boston Comic Con (April 21-22, 2012), so if you plan to attend – keep your eyes peeled for this book!