"Split Lip: Termites in Your Smile" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Sam Costello
Illustrated by Lee O'Connor, Jason Ho, Christine Larsen, Karl Slominski, Joel Vollmer, Sami Makkonen, and Douglas Draper Jr
2011, 176 Pages
You have to love horror comic anthologies. You get a wide variety of stories designed to scare the pants off of you all in one book. Split Lip is one such title. All of the comics within are written by Sam Costello, with a different artist per tale. No two stories are similar in this volume and each comes with a bizarre twist at the end.
Those twists are rather hit or miss. Some are touching and pretty cool, like “The Tree of Remembrance.” Others are just weird and don't really make any sense, like “Termites in Your Smile”. Sure, it looks terrifying, but it was just something scary that happened out of nowhere.
What's interesting about each of the stories in this collection is the amount of heart. Not every tale is set up to scare you, but all deal with some sort of supernatural or otherworldly element. Sometimes it's looking at a stereotypical plot in an entirely new way, like “If You Get Close to Her, Kiss Her Once for Me,” which puts a unique spin on the haunted house trope. This took the familiar idea of a ghost hunter going in to exorcise a spirit, but then changed things up once she learned a bit more about the history of the house and the people that once lived there.
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“Beyond the Campfire Light” is probably the best example of this. It deals with a real-world horror in a way that's even more important now than when it was originally published in 2010. I don't want to spoil the twist in the story, but I will say that it's something that we've witnessed more and more in headlines in recent years. Jason Ho's artwork brings an innocence to the two characters as they head out into the woods for a seemingly normal camping trip and come back changed in ways they could never have imagined.
Every story in this book includes an afterward from Costello, giving you a bit of background on where the idea for it came from. Additionally, script excerpts, pencils, and character sketches are shown, so if you're a process junkie, you'll find a lot to enjoy here.
Split Lip: Termites In Your Smile delivers a nice variety of horror comics all in one batch. Each one is vastly different, dealing with completely unique elements. Aside from a few bizarre twists, this is a solid read that mixes haunting scares with great character development.