By Daniel Vlasaty
Things are not going so good for Adrian. On top of being a seemingly awkward dude, he’s plagued by what can only be described as waking nightmares. These are grotesque, horrifying hallucinations of bugs. So many freaking bugs. Crawling out of toilets and beer bottles and the eyes and mouths of all the people around him. Bugs filling the sky like some biblical shit. And he’s trying to keep it together, trying to hold it all back, but he’s not doing so good. And his friends are starting to notice that he’s not his usual self. But they’re thinking he’s a junkie, which would be so much easier. If it were just drugs he’d have an answer. He almost wishes he was a junkie. Because anything else would be better than what’s actually going on in his head, right?
To me Regression reads like a classic horror story, not something that lives off cheap thrills or jump-out scares. But something that burrows deep inside and takes root there. Something that grows and grows until it fills every part of you. Something that leaves you second-guessing what you’re seeing and makes you question everything you thought to be true. Something psychological and suspenseful.
This is some good old fashioned body horror.
When Adrian’s visions become too much for him to handle, he takes his friend Molly’s advice to undergo regression therapy to dig into his past lives to see if there is something there that could be causing this. Adrian is a skeptic, resigned to believe that nothing can explain, or will cure, him of his horror. Molly’s friend Sid is a hypnotherapist and also a stand-up comedian. After a show of him hypnotizing audience members into thinking they’re naked and horny, he gets to work on Adrian. And he finds something there, in the back of his mind. It could be a past life conflicting with his current one, or it could just be something buried deep in his subconscious that he’s trying to work through. But whatever it is, Sid feels that it’s worth exploring. And that night, after Adrian gets home, that’s when the real terror beings.
I never really think about pacing in comic books. I don’t know why, but it’s just not something that usually stands out to me. But that’s not the case in Regression. Cullen Bunn’s pacing is focused and the build-up is intense. I haven’t read much of Cullen Bunn’s stuff in the past. But this book is really something. I’ve always been a fan of the horror genre, but for some reason horror comics very rarely work for me. I think it may be because horror comics try too hard to be gross-out, in your face. Maybe they try too hard to be like horror movies, to get the kind of scares that you get while watching something as opposed to reading it. (And don’t get me wrong, there is more than enough gross-out shit in Regression). Another issue I think I have with horror comics is that the art is never right. Think about reading a seriously dark horror story but the art comes off as too cartoony. That will take you right out of the moment.
The art is probably the hardest thing to get right in a horror comic.
Regression’s art is drawn by Danny Luckert and colored and lettered by Marie Enger. And I think it’s great. It’s realistic and gritty and stylized in a way that really plays up the tension and fear and, well, the fucked up nature of the book. Honestly, the only thing that threw me off slightly about the art was that Sid kind of looked like the lead singer from Smashmouth and that’s just weird to me. This also may seem weird but the art reminded me a little bit of a combination of Fiona Staple and Geof Darrow. All the bugs and the horrors and the gruesome shit was excellent. I thought the coloring was great, too. Bold colors, not too heavy on the shadows. Just high-lighting the tone of the book.
Regression came out of nowhere for me. I remember seeing all the previews and thinking it was just another throw-away horror book. I remember joking with the guys I used to work with at the comic book store about how it’s just another Cullen Bunn book, and at that time it seemed like Cullen Bunn was writing just about every other book we had on the shelves. But I’ll admit that I was wrong, that Regression is more than just a simple throw-away horror comic. I think this book will go places and some of them will not be pretty. They’ll look nice, because of the great art and colors, but they’ll be dark and fucked up and full of death and blood and bugs. So fucking many bugs.