Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Dan Watters
Artwork: Kishore Mohan
Lettering: Aditya Bidikar
Release Date: 23rd December 2020
I’ll fully admit to being a little torn about sitting down to review the first issue of this upcoming Vault Comics series from Dan Watters, Kishore Mohan and Aditya Bidikar. On one hand, this opening chapter absolutely blew me away, drawing me into a richly realised story of art thieves in turn-of-the-century Paris and the horrifying mystery they uncover, so I truly believe it deserves to be seen by as many awe-struck eyes as possible. On the other hand, I really don’t want to give away too much of the story itself, for fear of diminishing its impact, as I strongly feel that going in blind (as I did), is really the only way to go here.
So, as I mentioned, the series takes place in Paris at the turn of the century, and introduces us to two young artists, Alphonse and Marcel, who have very different outlooks on both life and art, save for their shared taste for thievery. This first issue sees Watters taking his time in gradually introducing us to our two leads, letting us discover the nuances of their personalities and the dynamic of their relationship naturally, without things every feeling forced or unwieldy.
I’m going to sidestep the detail of the horror and mystery aspects of the issue, but with a link to a certain Dorian Gray and a troubling choice that drives a wedge between our two friends, there’s plenty of drama and tension after the relatively slow-burning first half. Plus, Watters’ knack for interesting dialogue keeps the pages turning throughout, adding depth and flavour to every exchange.
Mohan’s watercoloured artwork is truly beautiful, with a rich, painterly style packed with emotion, expression and, where required, a genuine sense of creeping dread. He does a great job of setting the tone throughout the course of this issue, and the shifting palette of the backgrounds really help to underscore the emotional beats of the story, from the soft hues of the Parisian sunset to the menacing shadows of the painter’s abode.
Bidikar is similarly on top of his game throughout (is he ever anything else?), keeping Watters’ dialogue and Marcel’s narration flowing smoothly and leading us around the page without ever getting in the way of Mohan’s stunning visuals.
The hook to pick up the second issue is delivered in a measured fashion via Marcel’s narration rather than with some flashy splash page, but should still be more than enough to ensure than anyone reading this first issue will certainly be sticking around to find out what happens next.
Honestly, I’ve become absolutely consumed with this story already, and have read this advance issue from cover to cover several times already. I’m deeply invested in the characters, but also in the setting, the period, and – of course – the deeply unsettling notes of horror throughout. This is another absolutely stunning debut from Vault Comics; a literary horror series that provides a visceral, haunting depiction of what happens when you change the world through art, and I absolutely cannot recommend it highly enough.
Oh, and as an interesting side note, throughout the course of 2020, I’ve given just three single issues a perfect 5/5 rating. So far, anyway. And all three of them have been written by Dan Watters. Just sayin’.
[UNLETTERED PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]