Publisher: IDW Publishing
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Ryan Lee
Colours: Doug Garbark
Letters: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 10th June 2020
Abraham has finally accepted his new/old family and is starting to look forward to a future with them. However, he is also acutely aware that something is very, very wrong in the sleepy mountain town of Braeriach. With the whole town acting strangely and seeing a disturbing change in Ryan and his family’s behaviour, Abraham decides that he and Nancy need to go back to the woods and to the Dead Tree. When the thing that used to be Ryan finds them, their flight for their lives brings them to ground zero just in time for the whole of their world going to hell in a hand cart as Theo Halbot reveals himself as the messenger of the forces pitched against the townsfolk.
I’m calling it right now, this has to be the most fun I’ve had reading a comic so far this year, and it’s already really high up my list for the best of 2020. This is a series that has so far captured everything I love about isolation horror, creature features, body horror, sci-fi horror, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Lovecraft, and Stephen King all in one. This issue in particular combines all of this into one huge epic, sprawling nightmare landscape that is simply glorious to watch unfold.
Ok, Mountainhead is written by John Lees so I may be a little biased, but by god you can’t dispute the man’s ability to write superb horror. For me this is a very different type of series from the books he normally writes. Irrespective of the setting and plot, there’s always been something very claustrophobic and intimate about the stories John writes. And Then Emily Was Gone, Quilte, Sink, and Hotell are all very different stories but they all draw you in, and really suffocate you with tension and atmosphere. This feels different.
Yes, it’s undeniably a John Lees horror story, but it also really feels like he’s stretching his wings and seeing what he can do with a larger world and swapping out that macro lens for a full on stereoscopic technicolour drive-in movie horror experience. I think that’s it, to be honest. This is so much more like a movie theatre experience than I’m used to, and it’s in no way a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love tightly written, gloriously twisted characters in their dark and terrifyingly claustrophobic worlds, but this… this is like taking the really dark and scary parts of Carpenter and Cronenberg, the sprawling detailed communities and landscapes of Stephen King and then having it all presented almost like a B-Movie sci-fi horror film. It’s just brilliant. I’m genuinely lost for words at how surprised I am by this series and how much fun I’m having reading it, and that’s something that takes some doing.
Ryan Lee and Doug Garbark. Just wow. Every panel of every page is a feast for the eyes, crammed with some of the most inventive creature design to hit a page since Rob Bottin set foot in Outpost 31. Lee and Garbark deliver twisted, nightmare-fuelled monstrosities that range from minor grotesques that catch you by surprise to full on gargantuan elder gods. The random townsfolk transforming into something other are reminiscent of both The Thing and the townsfolk from the 2010 remake of The Crazies. That benign, “howdy neighbour” smile which transforms in an instant into some nightmarish Lovecraftian obscenity, managing to be both beautiful and terrifying and leaving you wanting more!
I can’t comment on the artwork in this series without also talking about the panel and layout design which serves perfectly in directing your eye exactly where it should be; speeding you up, slowing you down, making you focus on the fine detail and then drawing you out to an eagle eye view, and doing it all effortlessly. This approach really reinforces the feeling that you’re watching a movie rather than reading a book, and even Garbark’s colouring lights the panels and pages like a film set.
As always, Shawn Lee does a top job on the lettering in this issue, and I’ve been a big fan of his work for some time now. His lettering is great, but where he excels for me is his sound effects. Simply put, Lee gives good sound effects!
There are quite a few big reveals in this issue, some shocking moments, some laughs and some tears but I’m not going to spoil that for you. However, I will say that the reveal at the end of this issue, while not totally unexpected, is still delivered epically and had me cheering from my chair – much to the amusement of my long suffering wife.
Remember, “Don’t slow down. Don’t get comfortable. Don’t think you’re safe. Be ready to run.”
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek