Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Writer: T.C. Eglington
Artwork: Simon Davis
Letters: Annie Parkhouse
Release Date: 29th April 2021
Years ago, in the secluded village of Harrowvale, a group with what we would consider to be radical pagan beliefs kidnapped a young woman with the intention of offering her up in sacrifice to an ancient deity by the name of Thistlebone. Avril Eason, the young woman in question, managed to escape and alert the authorities, thereby bringing down the cult. Now, in an effort to bring some form of closure, Avril returns to the scene and finds things might not be quite what they seem.
After the opening revelations of the events of Avril’s imprisonment and subsequent escape, we find her in the company of Seema Choudry, a writer who penned a book on the Harrowvale incident. Having received some odd materials through the mail, Avril has grown increasingly worried that her escape didn’t bring about the end of activities at the site and more people may be in danger. Turning to Seema for help, the pair return to the rural setting to settle Avril’s fears or uncover yet more dark secrets.
Being the fan of folkloric horror that I am, and with this series being described as a modern Wickerman meets Midsommar, this was definitely one I was more than happy to get my grubby mitts on.
Story writing aside, and oh boyo it’s a good read, the artwork here alone is almost worth the price of admission. With its trademark style and attention to detail, Simon Davis’ artwork doesn’t draw you in so much as grab you by the neck and wrestle you into the panels alongside the characters. Whether it’s the opening warmth of the farm or the dark panic induced by the figures in the woods leading to the shadowy imagery of Thistlebone itself, everything maintains a wonderful sharp consistency.
In some other books, the realism here might detract from the lettering, but combined with the colour palette, the whole thing works perfectly in this ‘graphic novella’ form. On that note though, I would say the choice of blueish hues for the present Avril seemed distracting at first and more than a tad out of place. However, by the finale, everything makes a bit more sense and adds extra pay off to the story.
Whilst Thistlebone might not necessarily bring much in the way of new twists on the established greats of the genre, it doesn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, need to. With solid writing which builds tension throughout, the slow trickle of reveals and heightening strangeness work together with the artwork to ensure that fans of the genre will not be disappointed. Whether through its joyful singing or repetition of symbolism and iconography, Thistlebone manages to skillfully tug at our collective fears and wariness of the different. Never mind stories of dark ancient gods of the woods or ritual sacrifice, we also have to contend with locals and their odd customs…
Having missed the opportunity to read this during its debut in 2000 AD, I’m pleased that its getting a graphic novel release. With a growing and well received offering of the graphic novella format, this tight, contained tale should be a priority for any horror fans.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster