Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: Richard Corben
Art: Richard Corben, Beth Corben Reed
Release Date: 14th October, 2015
A brand new series from Eisner Hall of Famer Richard Corben, Rat God tells the story of Clark Elwood, an arrogant city slicker who travels to the strange town of Lame Dog in search of his missing Native American girlfriend, only to find himself inadvertently stumbling into a world of savage beasts, menacing locals and unimaginable horror.
Corben takes his time detailing Clark’s gradual descent into nightmare, slowly shifting the tone from the natural to the unnatural as our cocky rapidly finds himself out of his depth as he searches for his lost love. Clark’s stubbornness and thinly-veiled disdain for the Native American people should render him irredeemably flawed, and yet Corben paints him in a such a way that he remains oddly likeable. Perhaps it’s the clear love that he has for Kito, or the way he continually picks himself up after sustaining one beating after another. Whatever it is, it’s truly impressive to see such a fully-rounded lead character in a genre with a disappointing propensity for dull, one-dimensional, walking tropes.
There’s also something about Corben’s distinctive artwork that’s inherently unnerving, from the grotesquely exaggerated facial features to his tense, claustrophobic panels and layouts. Even the quote-unquote “normal” people have something unusual about their appearance, making the introduction of the macabre, rat-like inhabitants of Lame Dog, with their buck teeth and slightly pointed ears, worryingly less jarring than it probably should be. He also does a truly impressive job on the pure horror aspect of the series, particularly during the brief yet memorable glimpses of the eponymous rodent deity
It’s definitely an unconventional tale, and perhaps not to everyone’s tastes, but Corben’s confident execution prevents Rat God from becoming too unpalatable, and the intriguing nature of the mystery is guaranteed to keep the pages turning all the way to the downbeat – yet oddly poignant – conclusion.
Managing to skilfully blend Native American folklore with twisted Lovecraftian horror, Rat God immediately sinks its teeth into the reader early before gradually dragging them down into the murky, unnerving word that Richard Corben has created. Dark Horse have long since established their reputation as the go-to publisher for bold, imaginative horror, and titles like this only serve to reinforce that fact. Highly recommended, but only if you’re willing to take on something a little bit different from the usual horror fare.
You can purchase Rat God HC from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.
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