"Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Vault Comics
Written by Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Felipe Cunha
Colored by Dee Cunniffe
2017, 32 Pages, $1.99
Comic released on February 28th, 2018
Who didn't dream of finding buried treasure as a kid? That's what everyone wanted after seeing The Goonies, right? That's just what happened in the small town of Whisper in 1997. A group of friends found some treasure and vowed to come back fifteen years later to divide it up. They're meeting again in the present day, but not just for their riches. It's to bury one of their own. This death is a little suspicious, as it happened so close to the date they were all going to get together. After all, splitting money with one less person means more for everyone.
Return to Whisper is the first in a new shared universe called Cult Classic coming out of Vault Comics. It hits with a huge bout of nostalgia right off the bat and not just because half of the book takes place in 1997. Writer Eliot Rahal captures the essence of being a kid and watching scary TV shows that are probably a little too mature for you. I have distinct memories of watching the original Friday the 13th movies and Tales from the Crypt at way too young of an age, but they helped create a fondness for the horror genre. That's the kind of feeling I get when reading this book.
The comic bounces between the kids finding out about the treasure in the past and preparing to bury their friend in the present. Each side is given just enough time to grab your attention. You get hooked on the kids' story as they gather around a TV to watch a local cable access show that mentions the treasure. Then you get pulled in as you figure out both which one of them died and how their lives have gone off the rails in the present. Now we're trying to connect the dots to figure out how these kids turned into these dysfunctional adults.
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There's an early scene in Return to Whisper that gives off a very Are You Afraid of the Dark? vibe as each character introduces themselves as a member of the Grave Robber Society. This is simultaneously super cool and very cheesy. It works so well in this book. Each kid is ominously lit by a flashlight, creating a moody introduction that immediately segues into an over-the-top horror scene of Civil War-era soldiers fighting mummies. Yes, I want to see that movie too.
Artist Felipe Cunha strikes just the right balance in the design for Return to Whisper. I hesitate to call the book an all-ages title, but it has some of the characteristics in the look and feel. There are some pretty grisly murders with tons of blood and gore, although a chunk of them are in the TV show the kids are watching in the beginning.
I haven't entirely linked up all the kids with their grown-up counterparts. This will come in subsequent readings and in future issues. I just have to connect the dots in my head. As the characters develop further, we'll get a better understanding of why some of the things they say and do in the present matter more. As it stands though, it's still pretty solid. There's more than enough for their actions to sink in.
This issue ends on an incredible cliffhanger that raises the stakes for the story considerably. There is already a solid premise going in, but the final page pushes it to the next level. In many ways, Cult Classic: Return to Whisper reminds me of Stephen King. It has that same emotional connection, baiting you in with compelling characters and a unique setting, then throwing in a twist that reels you in. This is a fantastic way to start a shared universe.