Review – Winnebago Graveyard #1 (Image Comics)

Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Steve Niles
Artwork: Alison Sampson, Stephane Paitreau (colours)
Release Date: 14th June 2017

“Are we there yet?”

A family road trip takes a sinister turn in Winnebago Graveyard, a brand new horror tale from Steve Niles and Alison Sampson, on sale this week from Image Comics.   And right from the opening dialogue-free pages, which feature a terrified couple being dragged from their motel room in the dead of night and sacrificed by a satanic cult, it’s pretty clear that this series has horror maestro  Niles’ murky fingerprints all over it.

However, in spite of the obvious strength of his writing, Niles is more than happy to sit back and let Sampson carry the bulk of the load in this opening issue.  And carry it she does, providing a scratchy, unsettling aesthetic with some cramped, intentionally oppressive layouts, working seamlessly alongside colourist Stephane Paitreau to provide a deeply foreboding atmosphere throughout.

Everything is framed beautifully too, giving the issue an almost cinematic quality as we recover from the shock of the early pages by being gradually introduced to our family; newly married Chrissie and Dan, along with Chrissie’s surly teenage son Bobby, as the trio decide to break up a fairly tense holiday road trip by visiting a somewhat run-down carnival they happen to pass on the way.

Like a lot of these kinds of stories, there doesn’t initially seem to be much of a connection between the opening pages and the remainder of the chapter, but it’s the knowledge that these two seemingly separate events are going to gradually converge that provides the bulk of the tension throughout the course of this issue.  Oh, and the carnival of course.  The crazy, twisted, disturbing, filthy carnival.  Ugh.  And while there isn’t necessarily anything supernatural or demonic about the carnival itself, Niles and Sampson manage to inject the sequence with a faintly disquieting vibe throughout, setting us on edge as Chrissie, Dan and Bobby do their best to enjoy themselves.

It’s a slow opening issue for sure, and the ending comes a little too abruptly for my personal tastes.  It feels like maybe another page or two to establish the situation would have been warranted, but in terms of leaving the reader wanting more, I guess it still managed to accomplish its job.  The issue also features some intriguing supplemental material, including concept art, a short piece about the genesis of the series from Niles, and a thought-provoking essay from Sarah Horrocks about space and violence in Southwestern US horror films.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times, horror is one of the most difficult genres to get right in the world of comic books. Thankfully, with Niles and Sampson taking their turn at the steering wheel, this disturbing road trip is all but guaranteed to be worth the journey.

Rating: 4/5.

If you want to find out more about Winnebago Graveyard, make sure to check out our interview with Steve Niles and Alison Sampson by CLICKING HERE.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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