As we amble closer to Halloween, two things are almost certain within the comic book community. First, everyone will be changing his or her name to something “spooky” on Twitter; and second, we are guaranteed a whole “slew” (pun intended) of new horror books. As ever, it’ll be difficult to parse through the Onslaughctober, but there are a few standouts, for one reason or another, that I am more than happy to recommend, starting with The October Faction. Issue one of this IDW horror book introduces a dark family deeply imbedded within the dangerously arcane and supernatural. Its patriarch is a former monster hunter named Frederick; an older gentleman who has retired to a quieter life of university teaching. As one would have thought, however, killing vampires and werewolves isn’t something you can so easily bleed out of your system, so he now imparts his knowledge of the diabolical to students in his “Monsters and Mythology” course, which as someone points out, would indeed be the best goddamn class ever.
Fred is visited by his old “Monster Squad” partner, Lucas, but in reminiscing about old times, it’s not just his lust for action that is reawakened. His goth, supernaturally attuned kids, Vivienne and Geoff, dip into the dark art of demon conjuring, while his erstwhile and estranged wife plots in secret her own, seemingly sinister arousal.
With titles like 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre in his bibliography, Niles has become something of a modern legend in contemporary horror comics, and his Addams Family-meets-Van Helsing take in The October Faction seems to be in-line with keeping that tradition alive ... so to speak. I wouldn’t say this is a terribly original idea; I mean, the story of an aging monster killer being relegated to a quieter life before presumably being sucked back in can be seen in everything from Spawn to Buffy, but it’s still a premise that I just inherently enjoy.
I was joking around with the Monster Squad reference earlier, but that was probably the first time I fell in love with the notion of generational monster slaying, and probably unlike the film (which, also quite scarily, celebrates its 27th birthday this year), that plot device still holds up as a major draw for me. And I think Niles does a decent job introducing it here, not necessarily because his premise in The October Faction has any new narrative wrinkles to explore, but because he introduces the tried-and-true soundly. There were points of the dialogue I found especially worn, however, like the automatic and overt nastiness of “cool high school kids,” but for the most part it was inoffensive, if not very imaginative.
The true star of this show is the appropriately-named relative newcomer artist, Damien Worm. His stuff here REALLY reminds me of Ben Templesmith’s, which makes sense, as the latter has been a frequent collaborator of Niles’, and for good reason. You need some semblance of the macabre in a book like this, and Worm completely nails it here.
I have a feeling those readers who don’t like too much digital overlay in their comic book art may have a problem with Worm’s style, but I personally think it captures the grotesque, haunted tone that he and Niles are clearly going for in The October Faction. Playing on Frederick’s idea that even Man can be monster, Worm does a great job in making everyone in this book - be they living or dead - seem paranormally angular and distorted, while at the same time reserving the excess of that style for the scant encounters we have this issue with otherworldly evil.
One of the greatest tricks Worm treats us to is using negative space to almost overwhelming effect. His fractured layouts of scratched, smokey, overexposed panels seem to progressively become more swallowed in shadow, with a final page that is almost completely subsumed, barring what looks like a disembodied head, a long-rotted corpse and a foreboding two-word summons.
The October Faction #1 - which is, kind of surprisingly, an ongoing at IDW - isn’t breaking any conventions within the monster hunter idea, and it certainly isn’t as fresh as the duo’s previous pairing in Monster & Madman. But I’m still on-board, if for no other reason than to get more of Worm’s darkly evocative art.
Writer: Steve Niles Artist: Damien Worm Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 10/8/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital