Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Dalibor Talajic
Colourist: Valentina Briski
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Release Date: 5th May 2021
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Witch Hammer, a, then at least, new OGN from Aftershock with the promise of more to come. Reuniting for another original story, and hopefully delivering on that promise, Bunn and Talajic give us yet another opportunity to ‘Read Dangerously’ with Eden.
Niles is a tattoo artist of considerable skill but who is plummeting towards the edge. Having suffered immense loss and left feeling trapped or forced into the drudgery of repetition and guilt in his choices, something is desperately needed to free him. Fortunately, that opportunity arises in the arrival of Eden; an enigmatic woman whose desire for free hand work is the perfect remedy. Of course, with this being from AfterShock Comics, nothing should be taken at face value. Eden carries her own secrets, as well as the peculiar loss of her tattoos only days later. You’re cordially invited to consider love, loss, and horror here.
Being more than a little familiar with the team, I knew that regardless of my personal take on the book, I was in pretty safe hands regarding the quality of the output. Whether it’s Bunn’s easy and engaging writing style, more than ably delivered by Dillon’s letters, or the attention to detail from Talajic and Briski, the book looks the part. Unfortunately for all the good though, this didn’t really hit the mark for me.
As strong a proponent of the prestige format on offer here as I am, I find myself thinking that the timing and pacing here didn’t sync as well as I think it could have. Maybe I’m just a bit too old in the tooth or jaded to connect with the character of Niles in the way that many others might. Without that initial draw, I never felt connected to the story and considered myself more as a passive viewer. For some tales that might be a genuine positive, but for a short tale of horror, I want to feel involved.
Perhaps a further consequence of this detachment is that I quickly foresaw where the narrative was heading and the build to the reveal lacked the impact intended. Without trying to spoil the twist here, it seemed to me to be unnecessarily split over two scenes. Taking the guesswork out removes the opportunity for readers to have that “I knew it!” moment.
It sounds like I’m being quite critical of this new OGN, but I suppose that’s because I’m so keen to see this type of work continue and prosper. There’s a good story hook here, and some lovely set art pieces; the layouts and paneling with the tattoo work in particular. I’ve also got to draw attention to the splash when Niles first enters Eden’s garden. Aside from the line work, of a style I could look at all day long, the colour palette and natural hues really make this ethereal place pop and stand out from the drudgery of Nile’s life.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster