This is how my Mondays tend to go: I wake up, do the basic morning things, brew a fresh coffee and sit down to read my comic of the week ready for my Big Comic Page review.
As we speak, the sun is coming through gently on my desk, and the cat is cuddled up nicely on my desktop cat bed. As you can imagine, I’m looking forward to my chilled Monday.
I pick up this week’s Bunny Mask from AfterShock Comics and on page one, a young girl is having her teeth chiselled out. I’m six panels in and my Monday has already shifted to a body-itching discomfort.
“Read Dangerously” indeed.
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Paul Tobin
Artist & Colorist: Andrea Mutti
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Andrea Mutti
Release Date: 9th June 2021
Before I continue, I should point out that I hate most horror media. Since the late ’90s, horror has come to mean little more than shock and jump scares without much in the way of real substance. Certainly in cinema, the jump scare has taken the primary writing focus over the mental uncertainty or horror before you. Thankfully, writing requires a little more substance than just having creatures jumping out unexpectedly. For me, the perfect horror has to harmonise the immediate with the slow burn. If you need a cinematic example, take John Carpenter’s The Thing.
Opening strong with discomfort and shock, this first issue hits you like a linebacker as we witness the aforementioned child’s teeth being mutilated willingly by her chisel-wielding dad. This was a swing that landed, but the the follow up is where this book really shines. You take the initial hit, and then series writer Paul Tobin sustains the disturbing themes of the book without readers ever finding themselves sitting and waiting for the next linebacker moment.
Ever wondered if the thoughts in the back of your mind would lead to something more? The opening issue of Bunny Mask plays on that feeling, and takes it to visceral extremes. Bee “no longer got daddy’s smile” Foster is the opening focus of the story. She translated the issues warping the mind of her father Leo.
Leo Foster is haunted and obsessed with “The Snitch.” Starting as a quiet calling in the back of his mind, this quickly grows to an unhealthy, life-altering obsession, leading to him strong-arming his daughter – along with captive Tyler Severn – into mining the earth beneath his house in search for the Snitch and its secrets. Every time the story’s pacing dips, another layer of mystery or horror is added to the mix, and the desire for answers and implied threat of what his broken mind can awaken really amps up the pace of the issue.
The art and colouring by Andrea Mutti is truly beautiful. The colouring of every page is pleasant on the eyes, and even the more warped features manage to be both aesthetically pleasing and deeply discomforting. The bold reds of blood splatter captivate each page, even on backgrounds of red shades of natural earthy browns. Complimented perfectly by the weight of perfectly poised lines used in all the right places, this issue is a spectacular range of conflicts and harmony. Together, the creative team behind Bunny Mask have no issues making moments that leave you cross-eyed with disgust while still feeling a sense of a twisted joy.
With horror comics in particular, I need stories to dig teeth in me with the opening issue. The 30 day release schedule can often cause my interest to drop, with some reads ending up being totally forgotten about. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that the mystery proposed here with the barbed hook of an ending has more than secured my interest in future issues.
The themes and mystery opening up in the three key acts of issue one should spark interest in multiple reader types. For me, I like a well-built psychological puzzle showing a slow strain on the human psyche as it tries to comprehend the incomprehensible. If you like your gore horror issue one is certainly leading for more of it to come. And if you like stories that make you think “what the hell am I reading?!?”, try Bunny Mask. As I said before, this story has moments where it feels like being hit with a linebacker with the added benefit of enjoying the confusion after the impact.