Saturday, October 3, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: BASKETFUL OF HEADS #1

DC COMICS/DC Black Label – @DCComics

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Joe Hill
ART: Leomacs
COLORS: Dave Stewart
LETTERS: Deron Bennett
EDITORS: Mark Doyle and Amedeo Turturro
COVER: Reiko Murakami
VARIANT COVER: Joshua Middleton
32pp, Color, $4.99 U.S. (December 2019)

“Ages 17+”

Basketful of Heads created by Joe Hill

Bestselling dark fantasy and horror novelist, Joe Hill, and DC Comics have launched a new “pop-up line” of horror comics entitled “Hill House Comics.”  The initial offerings from Hill House consist of five comic book limited series:  The Dollhouse Family, written by Mike Carey and illustrated by Peter Gross; The Low, Low Woods, written by Carmen Maria Machado and illustrated by Dani; Daphne Byrne, written by Laura Marks and illustrated by Kelley Jones.

Hill is writing the other two – Plunge, which will be illustrated by Stuart Immonen, and Basketful of Heads, the first Hill House release and the subject of this review.  Basketful of Heads is drawn by Leomacs; colored by Dave Stewart; and lettered by Deron Bennett.  The series will feature a young woman and an ax that has the supernatural power to lop off a human head in a single stroke.  But the lopped-off heads keep talking!

Basketful of Heads #1 opens on Brody Island, Maine in September 1983.  There, we meet a young couple staying on the island for the summer.  They are vivacious party girl, June, and Liam Ellsworth, who is working as a temp officer with the Brody Island Police Department.  They are enjoying a day in Liam's “dune buggy” police car when they get a call from Brody Island Police Chief Wade Clausen.

It seems that some prisoners have managed to escape from “Shawshank Prison” (a reference to a fictional state prison that appears in the work of Joe Hill's father, legendary novelist, Stephen King).  The escape leads to June and Liam inadvertently house-sitting, which is when the story really begins.

Basketful of Heads #1 is mostly an introduction to the series' setting.  Eighteen of the twenty-two pages of this first issue walk us through the world of Brody Island and introduce the main characters, while hinting at what will be June and Liam's first deadly dilemma.  The narrative really does not begin until the twenty-first and twenty-second pages of this issue – the last two pages.

Hill does a good, but not great job with this first issue, and I find the characters and the setting only mildly interesting.  But the last two pages make me think that I will be more than mildly interested when the proverbial shit hits the fan – hopeful in issue two.

Artist Leomacs' graphical style seems just right for a horror, thriller, or crime comic book, and Dave Stewart's coloring establishes a sense of foreboding.  Deron Bennett's lettering does most of the heavy lifting in giving this story a sense of rhythm and the feeling that it is actually going somewhere and is not just introducing some people who live on a tourist-trap island.  Basketful of Heads #1 is good enough to make me want to check out another issue.

“Sea Dogs” Part One: “Boarding Party”
STORY: Joe Hill
ART: Dan McDaid
COLORS: John Kalisz
LETTERS: Wes Abbott
EDITORS: Mark Doyle and Maggie Howell

“Sea Dogs” is a comics serial that will run in four-page increments at the back of every issue of Hill House Comics (apparently in the initial run of series).  “Sea Dogs” will tell the tale of how werewolves helped the Thirteen American Colonies and its Continental army win their war against Great Britain.

The first chapter, “Boarding Party,” opens in May 1780, at a secret rebel stronghold in upstate New York.  The mysterious Mr. Bolton meets a trio of men, who can transform into werewolves.  He wants to recruit the men and their special abilities in order to help the American rebels.  Their target is the powerful British Navy, which is destroying the Continental navy and other colonial ships by the hundreds and is also creating a blockade that has left the Continental army half-starved and poorly equipped.

The art by Dan McDaid and colors by John Kalisz recall the comic book art of classic DC Comics horror titles of the late 1960s and 1970s like House of Mystery and Ghosts.  Letterer Wes Abbott's fonts are delightfully old school, and I must admit that I am quite intrigued by Joe Hill's concept here.  Plus, I also love werewolves!

[This comic book also contains an essay by Joe Hill.]

7 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

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