Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer: Shawn Aldridge
Artist: Scott Godlewski
Release Date: 10th February, 2016
The Dark & Bloody is the latest in a long line of horror titles from Vertigo Comics and, given their track record of late, there was no way I wasn’t going to pick this one up. The first issue introduces us to Iris Gentry, a war veteran who is doing whatever he can to support his family after returning home from a tour in Iraq. Without many real options or skills, Iris finds himself brewing moonshine in the backwoods of Kentucky, but there’s something sinister going on in those woods – something chilling, violent and distinctly unnatural.
See, I’m an old fashioned guy when it comes to reviewing the first issue of a new series. If it makes me want to read the second issue, then I’m a happy reviewer. However, if a comic makes me physically angry that I’m going to have to wait a whole month to find out what happens next, well, I’m calling that a major victory on the part of its creators, Shawn Aldridge and Scott Godlewski.
Iris is a truly interesting lead character; seemingly a good guy by all accounts, but with the recurring theme of ‘death’ running through his life. Aldridge is keeping his cards close to his chest for the time being, but gives us just enough information here to make us begin to care deeply about Iris and his family. The seeds are being planted furiously, with all manner of dark foreshadowing in the Iraq flashbacks as well as his son meeting a new ‘friend’ in the woods in the present day. I think Nailbiter’s Joshua Williamson pretty succinctly summed up the appeal of this first issue in his cover quote; from the first page to the last, there’s a creeping sense that something truly bad is about to happen, and yet, try as you might, you just can’t bring yourself to look away.
As impressive as his artwork is throughout this issue, it’s what COPPERHEAD artist Scott Godlewski doesn’t show you that really resonates here, with the “incident” midway through the book being both shockingly sudden and tantalisingly brief, leaving you with your jaw on the floor wondering what the hell you just saw. As I said, cards are being clutched tightly to chests at the moment, and Godlweski joins Aldridge in teasing the reader, keeping them in a permanent state of wide-eyed apprehension as the story gradually unfolds.
It feels like horror comics are a dime-a-dozen these days, but horror comics which genuinely unnerve you, creeping under your skin and lurking in your subconscious, are far rarer beasts. While Aldridge and Godlewski aren’t giving too much away just yet, the groundwork has been laid here for a truly terrifying rural horror tale, and a chilling testament to the fact that every action has a consequence.