Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Publisher: Titan Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A violent tale of dark fantasy based on a hit video game franchise.
Think Underworld meets Berserk.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A plague has fallen on the city of Yharnam causing any living thing infected to become deadly, terrifying beasts and beings. Even the Healing Church cannot surmise the cause of it, leaving the defense of this city to monster hunters.
Within this hellscape lies Lucien and Vivian whose father has gone in search of food. After going days without a scrap, they think their prayers have been answered when someone comes to the door. Unfortunately, it’s not their father, but the monster hunter Barnabas Cade. The man brings a massive, wolf-like monster with him, a lingering consequence of being lured into a trap by the song of the mysterious Lady of the Lanterns.
In another part of the city, Father Frederic tries to ease the woes of his congregation with the word of God, but they want more. Hoping to quell their fears with one last prayer, the gathering is interrupted by another pack of wolf monsters accompanied by the Lantern Lady’s song. Hunters Gretchen and her young apprentice Abraham intercept, but will it be enough? Who is this Lady of the Lanterns and what is her goal? Can anyone escape her song?
Bunn’s dialogue and narration are poetic and flow nicely creating an almost operatic atmosphere to the story.
Kowalski’s detailed linework immediately immerses the reader in the depths of Yharnam. There are many instances where the buildings themselves feel like a character also, giving everything a deliciously gothic vibe.
Likewise, his inking is minimalist and precise, avoiding huge swaths of black, but ensuring the focal point of each panel is never lost.
Simpson’s focus on complementary colors, mainly blues and oranges, really sells the mood of the story. Everything feels dreary and spooky and the action scenes feel intense with every splatter of blood and gunshot leaping from the cooler backgrounds.
Many of the chapters switch between narration, songs, and dialogue, but the reading order is never lost and the story’s pace never slows thanks to JAME’s masterful balloon placement. His color choices also make it immediately clear when these switches occur.
Campbell’s lettering in the opening prologue provides lots of variety in balloon shapes, creating interest without distraction from the art, and his sound effects pack a nice punch.
Bunn creates a song for the Lady of the Lanterns which appears in each chapter. It’s a nice bit of glue to tie everything together and creates an extra bit of folklore for the book’s main antagonist.
There is a wonderful moment of parallelism between Lucien and his father, shown in the art and story, that is artfully executed by the whole team. It brings an extra layer of connection to these two characters.
This collection provides a short introduction for those unfamiliar with the Bloodborne franchise, but the writing and art also provide enough context to avoid losing any new readers.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Content Warning: This book features graphic violence that may trigger readers sensitive to that.
The story features five main characters which prevents any of them from being fleshed out as well as they could. The reader doesn’t get a lot of time to connect with any of them before this tale’s end except Lucien possibly.
The ending feels complete but doesn’t leave a ton of meat to chew on. Conflicts are resolved, but nothing is terribly impactful or thought-provoking.
The story’s themes are expressed with multiple characters but feel repetitive and only loosely connected to the battle against the Lady of the Lanterns. Tying the monster to one of the character’s personal journeys in a more meaningful way could have made the ending more satisfying and explored these themes in more interesting ways.
There are a few scenes set inside buildings where the coloring is too monochromatic. They heavily rely on browns and oranges which muddle the great detail of the linework and obscure the focal point of these panels.
Some of the sound effects lettering was colored too similarly to the artwork and got lost. Lightening up the color a little bit or adding a stroke could have distinguished it more.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Bloodborne: The Lady of the Lanterns skillfully weaves multiple genres of horror together to create something truly special. The narration and architecture of stone and wood give it a gothic horror feel, while the reoccurring song about the Lady of the Lanterns exudes folk horror, and the setting of a plague-riddled city tops everything off with a dash of post-apocalyptic and body horror. This weaving of different styles makes the book eerily intense and scratches a lot of itches. In addition, the characters are truly distinct, varying their speaking and fighting styles, so their interactions are extremely fun to witness.
The art shows a true mastery of gothic storytelling elements. Many panels feature the characters as very small against the looming towers and buildings within the city, forcing the reader to recognize the setting. The ever-present threat of once neighborly homes turning into nests of monsters creates a tense atmosphere and, to a degree, another character to be explored among this larger cast. This is essential to a tale of gothic horror and the art team crushed it.
Anyone needing an action-packed work of horror, both familiar and new to the Bloodborne series, will find much to love about The Lady of the Lanterns.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn & Brian Hurtt
The Basilisk by Cullen Bunn & Jonas Scharf
Berserk by Kentaro Miura
If you like the art:
Bloodborne: The Death of Sleep by Ales Kot & Piotr Kowalski
Sex by Joe Casey & Piotr Kowalski
Aquila: Blood of the Iceni by Gordon Rennie & Leigh Gallagher
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Cullen Bunn (@CullenBunn) – Writer
Bunn is a master of horror storytelling and has had books published by every major comic publisher.
He is also a writer of prose having published a short story collection, Creeping Stones & Other Stories, and a middle reader horror novel, Crooked Hills.
Bunn is the founder of Undaunted Press.
Piotr Kowalski (@KowalskiPiotr) - Artist
An adept artist, Kowalski has created books for Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios and Titan comics.
He is also a cover artist, contributing to multiple books.
Kowalski is one of the few Polish artists to illustrate American comic characters.
Brad Simpson (@20EyesBrad) – Colorist
A rising talent, Simpson has colored books for Marvel, Image, Titan, and Humanoids.
He got his start coloring at the suggestion of East of West co-creator Nick Dragotta.
Simpson was a painter of landscapes before switching to comics.
AndWorld Design’s JAME (@JAMELetters) – Letterer
For 10 years, JAME has primarily lettered stories for Heavy Metal magazine but also has books published by Caliber & Titan Comics.
They are a part of Deron Bennett’s AndWorld Design.
Jim Campbell - Letterer
A prolific letter, Jim’s work can be found at nearly every major publisher.
He has been nominated for multiple awards including the Ringos, Tripwire, and twice for the Eisners.
Jim maintains a blog, Man of Letters, where he publishes updates and insider info on the comics industry.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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