By Oliver Gerlach
White Ash #1, recently Kickstarted with the promise of more to follow, was marketed as something for people who like Lord of the Rings, Twin Peaks, or Supernatural. That seems like a bizarre list of comparisons, and not a particularly coherent one. It is, however, an intriguing list, and one which fits the comic better than expected (although still not perfectly; that Lord of the Rings comparison is a bit ridiculous and out of place).
From the start, White Ash #1 looks like a good time. The cover is bright and fun and energetic, and the interiors live up to this. While there’s a definite undertone of horror throughout, White Ash is consistently enjoyable and energetic, rather than particularly creepy. To begin with, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the fun fantasy of the cover and the vampire horror of the opening, but the two tones pull together remarkably well as the book progresses.
The art throughout is fun and expressive; Hughes is particularly good at facial designs and body language, with all of his characters looking unusually distinctive and acting in very believable, human ways. Cramb’s colours complement this style very nicely, bringing the art to life with warm, autumnal pinks and purples and a texture that’s reminiscent of animation backgrounds. This is a lovely looking book, and all of the production is to a high standard. There is no indication within the book of who letters it, but whoever it is does good work here, especially with the sound effects, all of which blend in with the artwork very nicely.
The story itself is an odd assemblage, and hard to classify. On one level, this is a small-town horror story, but there’s also a fun romantic side to it that is almost reminiscent of Archie or something like that. Whatever it is, the plot within this first issue is very engaging, and I very much look forward to the promised next issue. This is good stuff, and I’m intrigued by the possibilities for the next issue. Intrigued, but not entirely unconcerned. There’s a reveal on the final page that proves a bit of a tonal and conceptual surprise, and it would be very easy for the next issue to go somewhat off the rails after this. Given the quality of this first issue, I have high hopes for the creative team doing something interesting with this twist, but I’m a little wary still.
This is a very solid debut, and I hope that the full creative team sticks together and produces more for a long time. In particular, the partnership between Hughes and Cramb works very well, and I’d be interested in reading anything they felt like drawing together.
White Ash #1
Writer: Charlie Stickney
Artist/Letter: Conor Hughes
Colorist: Fin Cramb