Review – Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #1 (Dark Horse)

grindhouse1-134146-copy-copyPublisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Alex de Campi
Artist: R. M. Guéra
Release Date: 12th November 2014

It’s always nice to be thrown an unexpected gem – and much as the cover might announce this to be just another in the long line of love-letters to the exploitation era of low-budget cinema that gives the comic its name, this particular story has much more to it than immediately meets the eye.

The story holds up exceptionally well, particularly given that we’re in grindhouse territory – it’s a schlocky, pulpy story of strange monsters, of as yet unknown origin and motivation, but borne of snow, and targeting isolated families in rural Canada on a cold Christmas eve. It falls to a terminally ill older lady named Mother Wolf, and her wayward step-daughter Shayla to defend not only themselves, but the families being attacked. Safe to say, things don’t play out in their favour.

The dialogue is great – narrated by Mother Wolf, you can feel the lung cancer grating in her voice, giving the noir-ish vibe of the story a delicious kick. Shayla’s dialogue is gloriously sweary, but with a distinctly feminist edge, and despite the roots in exploitation, it never feels like she’s doing badly in the situation because of her gender.

But the real pull for the book is the art from Guera. There’s something genuinely appealing his work here – tonally, it’s got some rather pleasing shades of Frank Miller’s moodier work in Sin City, with beautiful, carefully structured layouts and mildly distorted character proportions recalling Tim Sale’s work on Batman, all accentuated by snow-draped colour work from Brusco. It’s all gorgeously unsettling, nailing both the noir and horror aspects of the story.

Much as it’s got Grindhouse in the title, perhaps the only proper criticism one can level here is an intellectual one – barring a single, sleaze-ridden page in the middle of the book, it lacks the raw, exploitative edge that characterises the genre, and feels more like a proper, well-crafted horror story than anything else.

I guess that makes it an ostensibly new take on the aesthetic, and it’s an incredibly admirable one – a great start to what promises to be a nice wee diversion from the usual capes and tights. One to pick up.

Rating 4/5.

If you want to find out more about this series, check out our exclusive interview with writer Alex de Campi where she discusses all things Grindhouse.

RSavThe Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24

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