Script: Chris Welsh
Art: Rob Carey
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Letters: Robin Jones
The first thing that strikes you about the debut issue of NESS – a self-published Scottish horror story, fresh from a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign – is the impressive artwork of Rob Carey. Expressive, detailed characters and beasties abound, and Carey crafts a wonderful sense of tension and dread during the opening pages as a mysterious guardian of the Loch meets his untimely demise.
Sure, there’s an occasional lack of detail at times, particularly when it comes to the backgrounds – the local village pub, for instance, looks like an empty warehouse – which can be a little jarring, making the characters sometimes look like they’re performing on a stage rather than actively participating in the story. For the most part though, the artwork of NESS definitely provides its strongest selling point, with colourist Dee Cunniffe’s typically solid work helping to underscore some fantastic truly horror beats.
The story, from writer Chris Welsh, is actually a little different from the one I was initially expecting. It revolves around Ceit, a young woman who returns to Loch Ness along with a group of her friends to scatter her mother’s ashes, only for all hell to break loose in pretty rapid fashion. While I was bracing myself for a more subtle, disturbing dose of Celtic horror, what we actually have here is akin to a Scottish monster B-Movie, with wild-eyed locals and tentacled beasties aplenty.
Aside from the aforementioned opening pages, there isn’t much of a build-up before the first monstrosity comes lurching out of the loch to attack Ceit and her friends, instantly switching this series from the “slow burn” I was expecting to more of a frantic survival horror – no bad thing necessarily, but definitely a little jarring based on my own preconceptions about the series. There also isn’t a huge amount of character development going on outside of Ceit herself, and even she doesn’t fare particularly well in the grand scheme of things, coming across fairly one-dimensionally – for the time being, at least.
Overall though, while it’s definitely not what I was expecting, NESS is still a fast-paced, energetic monster tale with some truly impressive visual moments. Hopefully as the story develops we’ll be able to dig a little deeper into the background of these horrific happenings, but even if ends up being little more than a fun, schlocky slice of B-Movie horror, NESS is still a title that I have no problems recommending, if only to bear witness to the obvious enthusiasm of its creators.
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Make sure to check out the official Ness Facebook Page for all the latest news about the series and the upcoming issues.