Review – Black Stars Above #4 (Vault Comics)

Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Lonnie Nadler
Artwork: Jenna Cha
Colours: Brad Simpson
Lettering: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Release Date: 26th February 2020

As the frigid waters claim Eulalie and she drifts helplessly towards an icy doom, she is assailed by visions which force her to fight to survive and bring her alien charge to the Town North of the Woods. As Eulalie wanders the frozen landscape, always heading North towards the enigmatic moon ladder, she is guided by her companion and the mysterious voice of the Black Stars, forever on the very edge of hearing and understanding.

Once again, we are presented with a masterclass in how to write psychological horror, and of how to properly craft isolation, paranoia and creeping insidious terror. In Black Stars Above, Lonnie Nadler just seems to have hit on a perfect vehicle for his writing, and this is a comic series that feels like it is drawing its narrative straight from a C19th/early C20th horror novel by the likes of Lovecraft, Machen or Blackwood. The writing in this story really is that good, to the point that I would really like to see what Nadler could produce as a collection of short stories and novella’ (preferably in some sort of ancient, leather bound tome).

This issue blew me away; I genuinely didn’t think that Lonnie Nadler could up his game anymore, but this completely and utterly surpasses the first three issues. While Eulalie has clearly had to fight every step of the distance she’s made in her journey so far, there is a resignation in her attitude in this issue that tells of her acknowledgement that her fate isn’t, and never has been, in her hands and that all she can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other until her final destination and purpose are revealed.

The way this is delivered is great. Again, Tekka seems almost to be a conjuring of her imagination, a voice in her head brought on by the isolation and paranoia of being lost and alone in a world of cold whiteness. In Nadler’s delivery of the narrative, you really do feel every painstaking step, the agony of blood pumping back into frost bitten extremities, the whirling confusion and madness caused by the unforgiving landscape and imagery that are so alien to Eulalie’s senses. There is, however, a part of Eulalie that is very conscious of what is going on around her and this leads back to the overall sense of resignation in her attitude as she climbs the moon ladder and makes the final paces towards The Town North of the Woods.

Jenna Cha, Brad Simpson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, also do a stellar (pardon the pun) job on this issue; Cha doing a fantastic job of creating an otherworldly landscape and really bringing Eulalie’s isolation and mental turmoil to life; Simpson giving Cha’s artwork, depth and shadow and stark white madness; and once again Otsmane-Elhaou providing some really great lettering.

I particularly liked seeing visual cues and themes that we were given in the earlier issues being used to greater definition in this issue. For example, a double triangle symbol that we’ve seen in the snow and carved on a tree being finally revealed as an ancient stone gateway. There’s also a visual link to the mysterious man who set Eulalie on her journey, which I have to admit I didn’t pick up on until my second reading of this issue.

Both this issue and those before it has really impressed me as a whole. I haven’t been able to find even the slightest of weak spots in the work of this creative team, and this is a series that, if you haven’t already picked it up, you’re really going to kick yourself for missing out on.

Rating: 5/5.

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

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