DESCENT INTO DREAD
Writers: Dalton Shannon & Wells Thompson
Artists: Antonio Russo Tantaro, Andrea Modugno, Serg Acuña, Sleight, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, Kath Lobo, Mia Strizzi, Mr. Fish Lee, Mary Landro
Letterers: Antonio Russo Tantaro, Serg Acuña, Sleight, Leonardo Marcello Grassi, Kath Lobo, Mr. Fish Lee, Mary Landro
Publisher: Caliber Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A themed horror anthology that deals with our darkest fears…usually in some sort of horrific physical form.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
More than a few of our protagonists poke the bear, so to speak, but these shorts range from slice-of-life familiar horror to fantastical and classic pulp adventures.
There’s a cosmic threat, a swamp monster, a few underwater surprises and even a bad boss whose extracurricular activities leave more than a little to be desired.
Whether our protagonists blunder innocently into peril or seek it out and are punished accordingly, there's always something lurking beyond the page turn. Each story deals with a unique monster, and the whole book has a good showcase vibe for new and old-school comic fans alike.
Overall, the unified tone and cadence of Shannon's & Thompson’s storytelling help give us a thread through some pretty disparate tales. It’s a smart way to put together a book.
“The Myth of Tomorrow” - Despite a bit too much narration from the big bad, this Groundhog Day spin has a lot more at stake than one man’s personal growth. Tantaro’s art is evocative and the space station feels believable.
“The Beast Returned” - this short hits the right Howard notes and features Modugno’s take on Frankenstein’s Monster with a good, beefy upgrade. He’s fun to look at, and the desert landscape is apocalyptic in the right ways.
“Awash” - Acuña’s art does a lot to sell this underwater horror tale, and it’s a good, modern counterpoint to the ornate Conan-esque monster who stalked the desert in the pages before. The creature design is delightful, and the final twist is telegraphed well in the lettering.
“Dreams of the Drowned” - Grassi’s line is tight and there’s a great wordless face-off panel early on that sells the tension of the scene. The dialogue is generally believable, and the creature design and motivation is fantastic. Definitely worth a read.
“Rubbing Elbows” - Lobo’s art is great in this one, and although this is a minor detail in some ways it also matters: Lobo draws hair really well. Lora’s a kickass Final Girl, and Shannon and Thompson deliver on the best ending yet. Bonus points to Lobo for the weed whacker to the face, and the final panel - what a way to go out!
“Territorial Imperative” - Lee’s art and cartooning are evocative and great, and Shannon and Thompson’s banter at the beginning feels natural. A few snappy lines earn laughs, and the creature reveal is at once comical and a good prelude to the gore fest.
“Chasing the Sun” - Landro’s style feels torn from the pages of 2000 AD, and that’s a good thing. Shannon and Thompson craft another short full of lore, and Landro adds a lot of sympathy for Ryan and his strange turn at the end with expressive facial expressions and good anatomy.
“The Beast Denied” - A good end cap to the serial we follow through the anthology. Modugno makes sure to include one creative and brutal kill per short, and this one definitely does not disappoint. I am admittedly a sucker for a gag kill, but they’re always delivered with a balance of humor and horror.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The lettering in “The Final Scream” and “Dreams of the Drowned” isn’t consistent. Scaling font size creates a bit of havoc on the eye, when emphasis would do.
The “Beast” series is imaginative and has a lot of depth, but there’s too much narration for a black and white comic. The scrollwork on the narrative boxes helps distinguish these chunks in quieter moments, but when the action is flowing it’s difficult to parse.
In “The Beast Displayed,” it’s not clear who’s talking to the Beast as he struggles to get free, and the zingy dialect diffuses some of the narrative tension.
The gendered gimmick of “The Fly Trap” doesn’t necessarily work. Strizzi’s art is fluid enough that it’s hard to tell who’s who in the crowded club, and the novelty doesn't necessarily sell the reveal - though the monster design is great.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Fans of horror who enjoy short comics should definitely try this out. Anthologies are a great way to find our new favorite creators and see how they tell stories within strict limitations, or see how established folks do with the shorter, snappier format.
Fans of pulp should enjoy the “Beast” series and find it and other installments enjoyable. There's layers of homage to both pulp fiction and comics based on that fiction, and the tone and style of the total piece are enjoyable.
Anyone who’s interested in horror that makes you chuckle should also pick this one up. Pulling a laugh out of me as a comics reader is difficult, especially these days, and there were a few moments of joy interspersed with the gristle and gore of some seriously bad decisions. Laughter in horror is important - almost more so than the final kills - and this anthology knows how to take the piss in meaningful ways, when it counts.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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