"White Ash #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written by Charlie Stickney
Illustrated by Conor Hughes
Colored by Fin Cramb
2017, 52 Pages
Welcome to the town of White Ash, a quaint little place centered on a coal mine. Aleck wants to put it all behind him and go to college, but on the day he's due to leave, an accident hits the mine, forcing him to stay to help out. He then discovers some secrets about himself and his family that force him to question everything. Then there are the monsters.
White Ash takes time to establish the world and everyone in it. The oversized first issue starts out with a brilliantly chilling scene and then takes a step back to introduce you to Aleck, the town, and the supporting characters. Since there are these extra pages, there's plenty of room to explore this. It never feels like the time is wasted. Instead, it gets us more invested in Aleck's life.
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Conor Hughes' artwork helps this along greatly. His characters look real and natural. Much can be explained with their facial expressions and posture. For example, the initial interactions between Aleck and Lillian, the daughter of the mine's owner, Thane, are flirty and just a little awkward. You can see how a romance is poised to develop there, although her family would in no way approve.
This makes the appearance of the monster all the more frightening. It flies in the face of the normal, everyday world that's established. It starts with a creepy scene of violence and bloodshed, although you don't see it actually happen. Instead, you see the gory aftermath, forcing your mind to think of how a body could bend that way. Later, sharp teeth and demonic eyes are seen on an otherwise average human being, shocking the system.
White Ash has the pacing of an hour long TV show, with big moments happening around commercial breaks. The character development pieces string them all together, so you get a nice mixture of both.
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The character designs are perfectly matched with the tone of the story. Lillian is a knockout. Aleck is a muscular musician. Thane is an older yet dangerous magnate. Couple this with Fin Cramb's colors that make White Ash look like it is perpetually under a sunset and you have the making of a quality drama. Now through in the supernatural and fantasy elements and you've got a pretty great story.
The final page of White Ash #1 drops some great revelations that are matched with awesome action sequences. If you aren’t hooked by this point, the climax will pull you in. It also puts some of the events in the series in context, reframing what you've seen so far. It made me more excited for the series and where it can go next. This is a nice blend of horror, fantasy, and drama.
The creators of White Ash are currently crowdfunding the second issue on Kickstarter.