Vertigo continues their winning revival with their latest horror comic The Dark and Bloody. Reminiscent of Harrow County’s Southern gothic, The Dark and Bloody channels a slightly less magical element to convey its lurking sense of doom. Using flashbacks to the Iraq War, writer Shawn Aldridge is able to convey a sense of lingering guilt and pain that translates back home after it’s all over with. And what better way to stage the foundation of a Southern horror story than with the fear, hatred, and regret of war? Ominous and brooding The Dark and Bloody starts off strong in its second issue, delivering chills and thrills from Kentucky’s deep woods. The story revolves around Iris Gentry an ex-soldier now moonshiner who is haunted by his past. He’s a good man, and is trying to raise his son and take care of his pregnant wife any way he can. After the suspicious disappearance of two of his most loyal customers, he falls under suspicion from the local sheriff. Iris’ dreams are worse than usual, and a dark witch like bird haunts them. Things get even worse when after awoken by one of these nightmares he wanders outside only to find the walking corpses of his two customers that went missing. They are accompanied by one of the witch birds that swoops and leaves Iris firing his gun into the air. Evil things are coming to his small town. The next morning he describes the encounter to his veteran friend, Foster, who gets angry and tells him that he shouldn’t talk about things he’s not supposed to. Things they did during the war that allowed them to survive. They paid a price to escape hell, but now hell is coming back to claim what it is owed. The next night his zombie friends return but this time they want blood, luckily Iris has his shotgun and a machete and dispatches them quickly. He knows that this is just the beginning of something terrible.
I’ll go ahead and make that Harrow County comparison again, not just because artist Tyler Crook did the covers for The Dark and Bloody, but because it is an apt comparison. The war flashbacks aside, the overall tone of each of these books really share a lot. The American South has ever been a home for great horror stories and these comics are no exception. The Dark and Bloody makes readers wade through the deep woods of Kentucky, where evil lies at every turn. The biggest strength of this book is definitely the suspense. There’s some weird shit going on in this town, and much like small town horror staple Twin Peaks, the atmosphere gets laid on thick. The characters are established quickly and have strong personalities, and really even in two issues not much is revealed. We know that these soldiers meddled with something they shouldn’t have when they were overseas, but we don’t know what. This type of anticipation is really the best trait a horror comic could have. Without the aid of traditional scares that TV or film has, horror comics have to rely on other more classic techniques, such as atmosphere and suspense. The Dark and Bloody is a slow burn that will hopefully have a big payoff.
The Dark and Bloody #2 Writer: Shawn Aldridge Artist: Scott Godlewski Publisher: Vertigo Comics Price: Print: $3.99 Release Date: 3/9/16 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital