"The Empty Man #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Jesus Hervas
Colored by Niko Guardia
Lettered by Ed Dukeshire
2018, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on November 7th, 2018
The Empty Man returns...or was it ever really gone? A pandemic is sweeping the nation, causing the infected to hallucinate and lash out in horrific violence. Melissa Kerry is going through the early stages of the disease, but her family has been trying to keep it a secret from everyone else. If the world found out she is infected, she'd be taken away to a quarantine zone and never seen again. This task is getting more and more difficult, especially as the Empty Man disease works its way through her system and she gets increasingly more violent.
This is an incredibly unsettling comic for multiple reasons. The disease itself is rather disturbing, as it leads to some rather disturbing imagery. Artist Jesus Hervas creates these haunting panels featuring a number of people hanging from a bridge with the words “The Empty Man made me do it” scrawled on the side. This is on the very first page and things only get darker from there.
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Part of the terror comes in the oppressive manner that the government is working to contain the Empty Man disease. Shock troops are on the ground, sweeping through neighborhoods to search for the infected. We don't know where these people end up after they're taken away. The images of armed gunmen marching past children playing is a frightening sight.
This is how writer Cullen Bunn gets us up to speed about the world of The Empty Man. This series is a follow-up to another of the same name from 2015. You can safely jump into this new book without having read it because Bunn drops us into this landscape and quickly gives you the lay of the land. You instantly understand the dire situation this disease has created and it's so very chilling. Once the groundwork is laid, he focuses the story on the Kerry family, making it a much more personal tale.
There are a few sides to the Kerrys. Melissa is in denial that she really has a problem, refusing to accept the obvious symptoms that are causing problems in the household. Her husband is terrified and trying to keep everything together. There's an uncomfortable scene where he's sitting in his house with his head in his hands as his wife screams for help upstairs. Letterer Ed Dukeshire uses these jagged and alarming word balloons to highlight the pain and anguish, which are mixed with a rough and painful scream that spreads across the entire page in a bloody red.
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Melissa's hallucinations are horrifying. People transform into bulging lumps of flesh, carrying their guts in front of them like twisted bouquets. Hervas creates these dark and troubling scenes, amplified by Niko Guardia's colors. Guardia uses a blood splatter effect that was previously seen in his work on The Gravediggers Union, where it looks like it's smeared on the page itself instead of just on the characters. This adds to the overall creepy nature of the book.
The Empty Man is a horror comic that will definitely get under your skin. It doesn't scare you with gore or what passes for jump scares. Instead, it steadily builds this unsettling feeling that never goes away. You'll dread every page turn, but will still eagerly flip through the comic because you'll have to know where it will go next.