Review – Devil Within #1 (Black Mask)

Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artwork: Maan House
Colours: Dee Cunniffe
Lettering: Troy Peteri
Release Date: 10th October 2018

Newly engaged Michelle and Samantha have moved into their new house in the island province of Cebu (Indonesia). However, barely a week into their new life things start to go horribly wrong. A visit from the police brings up a history better left forgotten, while supernatural terrors in the night threaten to destroy the young couple’s sanity and possibly their lives.

I was just thinking to myself the other day that what I really needed was another series to rival Black Mask’s utterly superb Come Into Me. I think there is a very, very good chance that Stephanie Phillips (Kicking Ice, Butcher of Paris), Mann House (Spencer & Locke, Witchblade, Cutter) and Dee Cuniffe (The Dregs, Redneck) are going to deliver that. The fact that Black Mask are involved is great news given they’ve already produced what I am confident is going to be my top comic of 2018.

As a horror genre I’ve always been fascinated with the stories that have come out of the Far East and some of the films that have come out of Indonesia specifically over the last decade have been spectacular (May the Devil Take You and Satan’s Slave being great examples), so to find a horror comic based in Indonesia is very exciting. Adding another depth of intrigue to the story is the fact that it’s supposedly based on actual events…

There are some obvious possession/ supernatural story tropes in this issue, but they’re done so well that while you think the story is going one way, it’s quietly and subtly sneaking round to blindside you. Stephanie Phillips delivers tension beautifully and I was on the edge of my seat the whole way through this issue. Sam and Michelle are well-developed characters that I found myself being drawn to very early in this story and that really helps to make the impact of what’s happening to them more disturbing.

There are a lot of unanswered questions here and I’ve got half a dozen different theories about what’s going on bouncing around in my head.

I’m going to utterly embarrass myself now and freely admit that I didn’t realise that Sam wasn’t a man until half way through the issue (that’s what you get for going in blind and not reading the publishers notes…). What I took away from this is a couple of things. Firstly, I’m delighted that it’s becoming so widely accepted in the comic world that not all couples/ people in this world are straight and that real representation is becoming the norm (see Aftershock’s Moth & Whisper for another notable example). Secondly, I think it really speaks to how engrossed in the story I was that I didn’t even notice Sam’s very obvious boobs (honestly, I just thought she was a really pretty guy) for the first dozen pages.

I really like what Maan House and Dee Cuniffe have done with the art in this issue. So much of the story is set at night and so much relies on shadow that you could easily lose the detail in the panels but the use of spot lighting and depth within the shadows is brilliant. Nothing is overstated, a lot of subtlety is used with the pallet to add to the tension, and when you do get a particularly detailed panel and flashes of colour it really focusses you on the horror.

As a creative team Phillips, House & Cunniffe have produced what could easily be another massive hit for Black Mask if this first issue is anything to go by, and I’m waiting with bated breath for the next instalment.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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