Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artwork: Chris Shehan
Colours: Jason Wordie
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 14th April 2021
The Comfort Notch autumnal equinox is finally here as Vault Comics’ slow-burning rural horror masterpiece ramps up both the pace and tension to a deeply uncomfortable level. Desperate to find out more about the town’s mysterious history, Kat steals the local newspaper archives from the library, confirming her worst fears and prompting a drastic plan of action as she desperately tries to protect her daughter Sybil from the curse of Clementine Biddle.
The Autumnal has been an absolute masterclass in measured storytelling to this point, and the gradual build toward the impending equinox has been beautifully executed by the entire creative team. Thankfully, its arrival definitely doesn’t disappoint, delivering an issue which culminates in a frantic, terrified sprint and a jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising final page.
Series writer Daniel Kraus’ impressive character development over the preceding five issues really pays dividends here, ensuring that our investment in Kat and Sybil as they try to escape the town is absolute. We care deeply about this utterly believable family unit and the horror they have unwittingly found themselves wrapped up in, which is a real testament to the work Kraus has done in establishing them both to this point.
On the visual side of things, Chris Shehan and Jason Wordie continue to collaborate on a truly striking aesthetic, packed with tense moments and menacing shadows. Impressively, Shehan manages to convey a great deal of emotion on his characters’ faces without requiring too much in the way of detail, and Wordie’s emotive colour palette really helps to underscore the creeping sense of unease throughout. Jim Cambell also deserves a mention for his typically high-quality lettering, particularly during one haunting moment where Kat discovers the true origin of the “Biddle, Biddle” nursery rhyme.
One thing that has really impressed about this series is that, ever since its first issue, The Autumnal has earned every moment of unease and fear, never relying on cheap scares or unnecessary shlock to make its point. Grounded horror is, for me, always some of the best horror, and the fact that the creative team managed to have me on the absolute edge of my seat with little more than a few leaves here is truly masterful. Speaking of which, the beautiful visual crescendo in the final pages of the issue as Shehan and Wordie’s autumn leaves gradually threaten to swallow the panels – and our protagonists – entirely is primal horror at its absolute finest. Truly gripping stuff.
As you’ll no doubt have realised, we’re serious horror fans here at the Big Comic Page, and with all manner of evocative and thrilling books being released from publishers all over the world on a weekly, Vault Comics continues to stand out from the bulk of the crowd with titles like this. I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]