THE FAMILY GRAVES, VOL. 1
Writer: Timothy Bach Art: Brian Atkins Publisher: Source Point Press
WHAT IS IT?
A lighthearted action/adventure melting pot where science fiction, family, mystery and classic monsters blend together surprisingly seamlessly and naturally.
It feels like The Incredibles or the Fantastic Four recast with classic movie monsters and a heavier focus on science and magic.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Phil Graves is a scientist. He and his wife and their three kids are kind of just your normal family. I mean, besides the fact that they're a werewolf, Gorgon, zombie, or other classic monster types, the Graves family all seem pretty much like any other family you'd meet.
Except extremely well-off. And when Phil turns into a werewolf, he threatens his family's safety. And Phil's dad is a kind of chronal vampire. But they try not to talk about that. It's complicated.
One day, Phil finds a magical mirror that connects to others like it across multiple dimensions. The discovery leads to another alarming discovery: those worlds are starting to disappear.
Time is of the essence as the Family Graves are forced to save the multiverse from a villain bent on sucking the life from it. But to do that, they'll have to come together – something that can be difficult for a family to do on the best of days.
The story balances the familiar with a new, family-oriented spin, making it accessible for a wide range of audiences.
We get a good introduction to the family members and their powers early on, establishing that necessary foundation. In fact, the whole first issue mostly focuses on the characters, their dynamic with each other, and setting that day-to-day life baseline. It makes issue #2, in which we really dive into the plot and the villain's introduction, harder-hitting.
Della Verde's lettering is very well done and professional throughout. Though it doesn't have hand-crafted sound effects or fonts that are all the rage right now in indie comics, he makes excellent use of the many specialty fonts for sound effects and always finds space for all the text in pages that can be verbose. Part of this is thanks to Brian Atkins leaving plenty of room in his art for balloons and captions, but Della Verde's balloons lead the eye along the page well without getting muddled or getting in the way of Atkins's art.
Special balloons and fonts fit the characters well without getting out of hand, and there're a couple really impressive, dynamic uses of sound effects that make the page and its actions feel three-dimensional.
Brian Atkins really delivers on the character design. The dad's stubble evokes werewolf vibes, and the other family members have subtle (or not-so-subtle, in the case of the sons) nods to classic monsters. Plus, the father still looks like himself, somehow, when he's in werewolf form, showcasing Atkins's skill well.
There are some great homages to classic Fantastic Four comics, and it's cool to see the Kirby dots make an appearance.
Colors are rich, almost like a more vibrant version of those old Fantastic Four comics, and though they don't seem to adhere to a specific or limited palette, you wouldn't even be able to tell there were 3 colorists on the title.
The first volume is written the way a series like this is meant to be written: the arc comes to a satisfying end while leaving some loose threads and potential character growth for future volumes.
The creators open the volume with a place to draw within the mirror's frame – a great way to appeal to kids while tying it to the overall story.
Similarly, we get some good backmatter, complete with character sketches – it's always a pleasure seeing characters come to life through the planning process.
There are also parts of this comic that I, personally, really loved: in issue 3, the scenes between the mother and the chronal vampire have dark borders around them, not only to separate them from the calmer group of characters at home, but to raise the tension of the scene overall, and I thought that was really well done. There's another scene with the little zombie baby in a potato sack, like ye olde Baby Bjorn, and it's adorable, especially with sunglasses on him. I loved the evolution of the brother-sister relationship, especially in the final issue of the volume in a way that feels very rooted in a familial universal.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
We don't get much minority representation in this title, and the family seems well off. It may not connect with all audiences
It's interesting that the focal character is the father for a family comic, rather than one of the kids. Maybe it’s to keep the person reading it to the kids interested, or maybe it's just its Golden Age influences, but I wonder what audiences of all ages would think of it if it were written through the viewpoint of one of the kids.
While it's written for all ages, I imagine that The Family Graves might be best for readers confident in their ability enough for dialogue-heavy pages and many polysyllabic words. There's also a little blood and violence.
Often, the Atkins will put the first speaker on the right, instead of the left, which can make a letterer's job more difficult. He does seem to work in plenty of space to allow for the word balloons to be placed in a way that readers aren’t confused about who’s speaking, though, which is good.
There's not a ton of character nuance, but it also doesn't seem entirely necessary for an all-ages book like this one.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It's great to see fun, family-minded comics like this one coming out for wider audiences. If you're a fan of Golden Age comics, especially Fantastic Four, or old-school movie monsters, take the kids to visit The Family Graves.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Guitar Phantasy by Timothy Bach & Carl Peterson
Fantastic Four, Ultimate Collection, Book 1 by Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo
Super Sons, Vol. 1 by Peter J. Tomasi & Jorge Jimenez
If you like the art:
Gargoyle by Moonlight by Timothy Bach & Brian Atkins
The Terrifics, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, Evan "Doc" Shaner & Ivan Reis
Essential Man-Thing, Vol. 1 by Thomas, Conway, Wein, Gerber, Isabella, Ploog, Morrow & Buscema
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Timothy Bach – Writer, Co-creator
Moniker: Also goes by "Tim Bach" and "TDR Bach" in some comics credits
New Face: While he doesn't have a long list of comics credits under his belt, I suspect we'll see more from him in the future
Started the publishing imprint, Moonrise Comics, based near your favorite yeti, in St. Louis, MO!
Brian Atkins – Penciller, Inker, Co-creator
Dream Team: Tim & Brian enjoyed working together on Gargoyle By Moonlight so much, they decided to create The Family Graves together
Based in St. Louis, too!
Multitalented: Also works as a graphic designer
Dijjo Lima – Colorist (issues 1-2)
Moniker: His real name is Diego
Multitalented: Also works as "an art director, designer, colorist and advertising consultant for large companies"
Brandon Daniels – Colorist (issues 1-2)
Dream Team: Also worked with Brian Atkins on Blood on the Tracks
Ander Zarate – Colorist (issues 3-4)
Sometimes takes coloring commissions on his Deviant Art page
Tends to work in bright, vibrant colors
Marco Della Verde – Letterer
Test of Time: Has worked in the industry for over 20 years
Multitalented: Is also the Production Manager of Hocus Pocus Comics
HOW DO I BUY IT?
THE FAMILY GRAVES VOL. 1 will hit stores on OCTOBER 23.
Click one of these to pre-order it or read past issues:
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