The theme of the year for Critic Me so far is 1.) I hate comics; and 2.) stories are easier to start than they are to continue. Even successful indies these days often seem largely built on hooks that then devolve into making it up as they go along after the first trade. Remember how hyped Nailbiter was? Didn't even have to get further than issue two to realize it was scripted to be sold as television rights. Who Needs the Moon Issue #1 had me worried, despite enjoying it. Werewolf in a small town, Twin Peaks vibe, sleepy pacing. I couldn't put my finger on what I could expect from a second issue. Now having read the second issue, I've come to the conclusion that the comparison to Twin Peaks is more accurate than I would have thought. Not to say this book quite reaches David Lynch's surreal masterpiece in any way, but Who Needs the Moon has shown its true colors in its second issue, and those colors are weird.
Ethan is a werewolf visiting a small town plagued by a recent infestation of vampires. From the little we know of Ethan, he makes a habit of finding these nests and stomping them out, a genial wanderer who will also brutally murder you if you happen to be undead. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it's an engaging read, Todd McCollough dead nailing a dreamlike tone that many try for but rarely succeed at, not surrealism, just tinted with a woozy dread. As the full moon approaches, Ethan begins to change, the color pallet shifting to match, with Ethan being colored more vibrantly than his environment as he starts to feel more alive, and red objects start to grow loomingly more saturated as one thing starts to dominate his thoughts.
The art continues to be genuinely unique. Sometimes the panel composition can feel cluttered and claustrophobic, but McCollough's characters are expressive and memorable, cartoon influenced but necessarily grounded in the grim tone he's crafted. At around 40 pages, McCollough doesn't feel the need to compress the story to fit conventional page counts, letting the story weave around at its own pace but never feeling overly long in the tooth. Like a lot of great horror, it tells its story more with atmosphere than rigid event driven plotting, the reader still left without a great deal of information as to what the true drive of the narrative is, but without handicapping the experience. Who Needs the Moon so far is a story you nurse like a good beer, not in any rush to get anywhere. Once again, my one complaint with the artwork is whenever the story takes place in a dark scene, the colors drop to nearly illegible levels of darkness, blacks, greens, and reds so deep the panels congeal muddily. In this issue, it almost works in the books favor, the climax being a truly ugly piece of horror that did its job at paying off the nasty atmosphere it had built up to that point, but it still feels like the night scenes needed a slightly more sophisticated approach to lighting.
I still don't know where this story is going, but unlike the first issue, I no longer find that concerning. Whereas many indie artists can make their stories frustrating when the plots wind about without a strong sense of direction, Todd McCollough demonstrates a surprising command of tone and atmosphere for a self-published creator, this issue being the best work of indie horror I've read in a long time that wasn't written by an established creator with decades of experience behind them. It's the kind of story I picture would have difficulty finding a home in the cliffhanger heavy, tv scripting influenced publishing world, making me more grateful that this writer/artist chose the less fiscally rewarding path of publishing the work himself, rather than trying to shape it into something less interesting that an editor might jump for. The theme of the year still stands, but as of yet, Who Needs the Moon does a fine job of being the exception to both.
[su_box title="Score: 4/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Who Needs The Moon? #2 Creator: Todd McCullough Self-Published Price: