"Pigeons from Hell" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Joe R. Lansdale
Illustrated by Nathan Fox
2008, 120 Pages
Trade Paperback released on January 27th, 2009
Outside of maybe the ostrich, I think pigeons are the scariest birds out there. Think about it. You don't know where they've been or what kind of weird diseases they might be carrying. It's best to just keep your distance. Robert E. Howard, mostly known for his work on Conan the Barbarian, wrote the short story "Pigeons from Hell" in 1934. Over seventy years later, Joe R. Lansdale has adapted it into a comic book from Dark Horse.
Pigeons from Hell is not a cheesy story you'd find at the back of some cheap magazine. Although Howard wrote numerous pieces of pulp fiction, this one was a horror story filled with hoodoo. Set in the deep south, two sisters show up at an abandoned plantation that they've just inherited. They plan on checking the place out with some friends, but after discovering a giant pile of dead pigeons on the second floor things start going horribly wrong. The plantation is cursed, haunted by a demon summoned years ago by slaves owned by the original landholders. The sisters try to stop the beast once and for all.
After reading through the book, I'm still not sure of the title. According to the afterword and notes from the author, pigeons represented death at one time. It's said a pigeon would land on the windowsill of a person on their deathbed and then take flight when they passed on, carrying their soul with them. The birds are light in this graphic novel with the focus mainly on the plantation and the demon that's been haunting it all these years.
Click images to enlarge.
Nathan Fox's art has a harsh, pulpy feel to it. It fits the dark tone of the story very well and often outshines it. Fox's depiction of the beast and its minions are huge and terrifying. Since this creature constantly changes its appearance, Fox had to stay on his game to come up with new versions of it. He succeeds with each being more frightening than the last. There's a brief scene that's told in flashback where the whole style is made up to look like old, decaying photographs which was a great effect.
While I haven't read the original story by Robert E. Howard, this graphic novel certainly made me interested in checking it out. This was originally published as a four issue mini-series, but I can't tell you where one issue ends and the next begins. They flow seamlessly from one into the other and that's a testament to Lansdale's writing. I think this could have been fleshed out a bit more though. Granted, the source material was a short story, so Lansdale probably didn't have a lot to work with while he was crafting this modern day adaptation, but I think there could have been a bit more story here.