"Shadows on the Grave #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by Richard Corben
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on December 14th, 2016
When you hear that legendary writer / artist Richard Corben is creating an anthology comic, you don't need to wait to find out what it's about. You just pick it up. Shadows on the Grave showcases Corben's signature style with a number of tales, each unique in its approach to horror. Just like the old anthology titles of old, you're guided through the book by a creepy narrator, in this case, Mag the Hag.
It's tough to pick the best short story collected in Shadows on the Grave as they're all pretty scary. Each one begins with a seemingly normal idea such as a marionette show or a couple stranded on a desert island. They then take an abrupt turn into terror and don't look back. I don't want to go too deep into each tale, as that would give away the twists. These are much better experienced going in blind.
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Corben's artwork is so damn unsettling at times. He balances the normal, everyday things with images of insanity-inducing horror. Many of them will make you cringe just thinking about them. For example, there's a sequence where a man's body is starting to revolt against him. Strange growths are protruding from his orifices and sprouting from his fingers. There's a look of absolute fear in his face as he struggles to comprehend what's happening to him. Looking at these shots, you can't help but imagine what that might feel like as your body is essentially pulled apart from the inside out.
Shadows on the Grave is presented in black, white, and grey tones. This works incredibly well with the stories, giving them a classic look and feel; like this is an old, battered comic you might find in your grandparents' attic. Corben's use of shadow is magnificent, heightening the tension with each scene. You can never quite tell what's lurking in the darkness.
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The issue closes out with the first chapter of “Denaeus: Dreams and Portents”, a story that will be serialized in Shadows on the Grave. This is the only tale that doesn’t deliver. Whereas the other stories deal with bizarre twists on everyday ideas, “Denaeus” delves into fantasy with obscure concepts, Greek gods, and powerful warriors; basically mixing up folklore from a handful of cultures. This doesn’t pack the punch the others do, however I understand that it's just the first chapter and not a “one-and-done” tale.
Shadows on the Grave is a shining example of a horror anthology comic done right. The fact that it's written and illustrated by Richard Corben should make it a no-brainer for any fan of the genre. There's a reason the man is a legend, and this book is just further proof.