"The Belfry" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Written and illustrated by Gabriel Hardman
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on February 22nd, 2017
An airplane crash is a harrowing experience to begin with. You're clinging to your seat, wondering if you're going to need to use it as a floatation device if you make it out of this big metal box alive. Oxygen masks have popped out. People are screaming. Now add strange gargoyle-like creatures to the mix and you've got absolute terror. That's where The Belfry starts and it only gets scarier from there.
Writer / artist Gabriel Hardman starts The Belfry with the plane on the ground. We don't know how it got there or why it crash landed. Actually, let me revise that statement. The very first panel is black and filled with horrifying sound effects, presumably the noise the plane is making as it makes its descent. As the reader, you build the image of the event in your mind, only to the turn to the page and see what's left of the plane surrounded by trees.
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Hardman's artwork adds so much to the tension of the book, especially with the page design. The panels are often askew or in odd shapes, giving the story a frantic quality. This is used very effectively in the opening pages as the pilot is waking up and trying to figure out what is going on. You see glimpses of blood and carnage until the “camera” pulls back to reveal something unbelievable.
The gargoyles first appear in The Belfry in a magnificent way. Hardman delivers a full-page shot of one of the creatures breaking free and spreading its enormous wings. It would be beautiful if it wasn't so frightening. Everything about the monster makes it clear that it's one step above humanity on the food chain. The wings are leathery and bat-like, spanning a huge length, which makes it look larger than it actually is.
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Hardman'use of shadow throughout the story is incredible. It casts a feeling of dread around the survivors with every moment. There's a nice contrast with a flashback scene of the plane flying safely. The skies are bright and the vibrant color pops off the page. Then we're pulled back to the dark reality that the survivors find themselves in. This also comes through when one is walking through the woods, searching for a way out, armed only with a flashlight. The beam illuminates small areas at a time, only for him to turn and stumble upon...well, that would be telling. Let's just say he doesn't find a hatch with a Scotsman in it.
The Belfry is the terror and intrigue I had hoped to get from Lost. It delivers tension-filled scares that will stay with you long after you put the book down. It's horror that will get under your skin in the most chilling ways possible. Do not miss this comic.