Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Steve Niles
Artwork: Alison Sampson, Stephane Paitreau (colours)
Release Date: 19th July 2017
After a strong first issue which saw a road-tripping family marooned in a strange town when their Winnebago was stolen following a trip to a creepy carnival, Steve Niles and Alison Sampson kick things into high gear here as our family find themselves on the run from a band of hooded, torch-bearing devil-worshipers. As you do.
Once again, Niles seems perfectly content to sit back and let Alison Sampson’s beautifully grotesque artwork take the wheel as the story unfolds. Niles keeps the dialogue to a minimum here, with the silence enhancing the mood as our terrified family desperately try to escape their hooded pursuers. The bulk of this issue is essentially a prolonged chase sequence which Sampson tackles with gusto, using her funhouse mirror layouts and intentionally oppressive perspectives to really ramp up the tension.
Everyone is ugly and contorted here. Grotesque, even. There are no clean lines to be had. No steady establishing shots. And while it’s definitely an unconventional style, Sampson’s artwork fits this story beautifully, creating a frenzied and disorienting experience that taps into some of the primal roots of horror. Colourist Stephane Paitreau definitely adds something extra to Sampson’s work, particularly once the flaming torches come out, bathing the scenes in a faint, menacing orange glow and using the contrasting colours to cleanly portray the difference between safety and danger.
With one of the most acclaimed horror writers in the world of comics at the helm, it almost feels like a slight to focus so heavily on the artwork, but there’s no denying that Winnebago Graveyard is a singularly visual experience – from the time being, at least. Unfortunately this approach has its drawbacks, and the one thing that really feels like it’s holding Winnebago Graveyard back so far is its protagonists. They feel flimsy, aren’t particularly likeable, make continually stupid decisions, and as a result it’s pretty hard to feel any sort of investment in them at all. I understand that they aren’t meant to be particularly remarkable, just a family sucked into horrific circumstances and doing the best they can to survive, but surely ambivalence this early into the story shouldn’t be the desired effect?
For me, horror comics are all about mood and character. And while the latter may be a sorely lacking for the time being, the former is being executed to absolute perfection, with a genuinely unsettling aesthetic and an willfully unconventional style. Unfortunately, as striking as Sampson’s artwork undoubtedly is, there’s no getting away from the fact that Winnebago Graveyard still only feels like half a story.
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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