Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: John Bivens
Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A horror comic made in an early '70s style with a modern sensibility and a unique art style that marries the two.
Think Tales of the Crypt meets Stranger Things.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
After sixty-five million years of gestation, an alien creature is born outside of the sleepy town of Whisper.
A child named Irving prepares for his first sleepover with a group of pushy, rude schoolmates hoping to see something spooky.
Irving's brother Jarrod, codenamed Last Starfighter, communicates with a mystery friend over a walkie talkie and breaks up a vicious fight in a fast-food parking lot.
Rip G. Graves, A TV horror-movie host near the woods wraps up his show, feeling dejected and drinking heavily as he openly wonders who might be watching his program.
These separate, seemingly innocuous stories all build in tension as two things become apparent: at some point, they are going to collide and, when they do, the consequences will be horrific.
Rahal's dialogue is natural and, in the best sense, invisible. Horror in comics can easily be ruined with stilted dialogue and unrelatable characters; Creature Feature avoids hamfisted dialogue and is extremely absorbing as a result.
John Bivens's unusual art style accomplishes several things at once to set a compelling tone, from calling attention to specific, odd details, to paying homage to an older style of horror comic.
Hannah Jerrie's lovely pastel colors lure the reader into a sense of security that pays off when the true horror of the comic starts to show itself.
Esposito's dynamic lettering gives the world and characters texture and really sells the emotion behind their actions and words. There's something unique in the lettering on every page and it's obvious a great deal of thought went into every speech bubble.
The unflattering anatomy of the characters faces is an odd choice, one that makes them seem like their skin is stretched over their skulls unnaturally. In a romantic comedy, it would be a horrible misstep; in a horror comic, it's exactly the kind of unsettling the audience needs to suspend their disbelief.
The story takes some bold risks from the beginning to assert to the reader that nothing is sacred and no one is safe. For the most part, I think it works wonders to keep us invested and uncertain in what awaits in future issues.
Many of the characters are completely unlikeable, but all of them are relatable which is far more important to the health of the story and interesting to read about.
The creature designs and gory details are innovative and shocking, particularly in contrast to the old school style to which the comic pays homage (as noted earlier). This is going to give someone nightmares in the best possible way.
There's a lot of narrative threads happening simultaneously, but they all pull their weight without spreading the story too thin for 22 pages. It's a delicate balancing act that Creature Feature executes successfully among a myriad of comics unable to pull off the same feat.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
There's definitely an adult element to the book, so it's probably best not to let your five-year-old get a hold of it. Not the most Adult thing Vault publishes (see Money Shot), but definitely more mature than its style initially implies.
One of the central figures, Jarrod, is not given a proper name until the second issue. This makes his plot seem less important to the narrative than it actually is as readers could easily mistake him for a side character at first.
It's a little early to determine if there's going to be a strong theme in this arc, but it feels more random and plot-centric than other recent comics. Not every comic needs to be heavily thematic (if every comic were Coffin Bound, it would get old really quickly), but it seems less sophisticated than many of its counterparts. I do, however, hope to be proven wrong as the story progresses.
If you get uncomfortable with blood and depictions of realistic violence, I recommend you stay away from this one. Though highly stylized, Creature Feature doesn't pull any punches when it comes to creature or human shades of gore.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
For any fan of horror, particularly comic book horror, Creature Feature is a welcome read. It's well-written, effectively surprising, and immediately satisfying for any reader willing to stomach its taste for viscera and the uncanny. It works on the same level as Stranger Things and, in my view, is just as successful in emulating the nostalgic style many horror fans grew up consuming while elevating it at the same time.
If you've never given comic book horror a shot, you should definitely give this one a read. It's effective and fun, showing off the best of what visual horror can accomplish and remaining unambiguously human even in its campiness.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Doorman by Eliot Rahal & Daniel Kibblesmith
Swamp Thing: Roots of Terror by Len Wein & Kelley Jones
Mountainhead by John Lees & Ryan Lee
If you like the art:
Spread by Justin Jordan, John Bivens & Felipe Sobreiro
WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
Astonishing X-Men, Vol. 1 by Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Eliot Rahal – Writer
He's hit the market with a variety of work over the past several years, including Quantum & Woody, Hot Lunch Special and Midnight Vista.
Stranger Than Fiction: His comic, Midnight Vista, is based on a real-life close encounter, and while he can't remember the hours he lost, he knows he lost them!
John Bivens – Artist
Award Winner: Has won several Eisner and Harvey awards for his work with Grant Morrison on WE3 and All-Star Superman
Outlander: Lives in Scotland
Born Vincent Deighan, he writes under his Frank Quitely pen name
Hannah Jerrie – Colorist
Multitalented: Also works as an illustrator
Is most interested in fantasy art
Primarily works in a mix of digital and traditional media
Iris Monahan – Colorist
Multitalented: Is a co-founder of the recently established BadCo Press
Taylor Esposito – Letterer
Name Recognition/Prolific: Taylor's one of the best letterers in the business, hands down, and he's prolific, too. He specializes in clarity and brings his unique design flair to every project he touches.
Multitalented: His studio, Ghost Glyph Studios, offers graphic design as well as comic lettering.
Dream Team: Also worked with Eliot Rahal on Midnight Vista
Adrian F. Wassel – Editor
Name Recognition: Is the CCO & Editor-In-Chief of Vault Comics, and plays the role of editor on most, if not all, of Vault's titles
Also runs Vault with his brother and father
Has personally helped other comics creators in their endeavors, even for non-Vault comics work
Tim Daniel – Designer
Multitalented: Also was the writer on Vault title, Fissure
Inspired by others in the business: Sonia Harris, Sean Phillips, and Fonographics
Dream Team: Co-wrote Curse, Burning Fields & The Plot with Michael Moreci
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