By Daniel Vlasaty
Winnebago Graveyard is the story about a family on the run from a satanic cult. This comic hits all the check marks for a trashy horror story like something I remember staying up late to watch on HBO and Showtime when I was a kid. There’s a creepy, deserted town. A cop who’s most likely complicit in what’s going on in his town. There’s a family lost and abandoned, after their RV was stolen along with all their possessions. Plus, the “father” in this family is really a step-father and he’s trying to connect with his new wife’s son, but it doesn’t seem to be going so good. This is a trashy horror nerds wet dream. Except it really isn’t because I think it misses most of those marks.
Issue #2 of Winnebago Graveyard is light on story. There is absolutely no exposition. We have no idea what’s going on or why these things are happening. I understand why Steve Niles wrote it so bare. He’s trying to up the tension. It’s only the second issue, so if it plays out like most other comic book stories the third issue is where we should get some actual information about what the hell is going on. The problem with this is that issue #2 doesn’t work. It’s not tense or dramatic in anyway. It all comes off as kind of comical and not in a good way. You have a family on the run from a cult which in itself should be dramatic and tense and in all honesty, I couldn’t care less.
Partly it’s the characters. I don’t know them. I don’t like them. I don’t give a shit what happens to them. Seriously. I kind of wanted the cult to catch them because I feel more of a connection to the cult in this story than I do this random, drab (read: boring as shit) family. They are as flat as characters can be. I don’t need their entire histories or their whole life stories, I just need something that makes them relatable. The only things we know about them is that this is their first “family” vacation, and the kid only cares about his cell phone. I guess they’re relatable in that we all have families and sometimes our families are assholes. I don’t know. But it’s not enough.
It’s just a series of events happening. There is almost no emotion behind it. Even when they’re running from the cult, it doesn’t have the power or weight you’d think being on the run from a satanic cult in a strange town would or should have. There isn’t even enough time in the story to build that. They get to the motel and then – BOOM – there’s a cult outside with torches and they’re pointing up at them in the window. And then – BAM – they’re on the run. But even that isn’t scary or tense. It actually plays out more like a Scooby Doo chase. With the family narrowly missing the cult around every corner and, like, hiding behind mailboxes and shit.
I don’t want to say that Alison Sampson’s art in Winnebago Graveyard is bad, but I can’t really call it good either. It just doesn’t work for me. It’s too sketchy and inconsistent for my liking. Although I will say that I think it somewhat suits this story. Like a bad horror movie, it’s all distorted and messy and confusing. But, in the end, I just couldn’t get behind the weird positioning of the bodies, the inconsistency in hands and faces, the odd angles. I can see how some people might like it, might think it adds an extra bit of creepiness to the story. But, sadly, I’m not one of them. I found that the art distracted me from the story, occasionally making me stop reading to try to figure out how an arm can bend like this or how hands can look like that.
Winnebago Graveyard is a book that, in my opinion, had a lot of potential (and a great fucking title). And I think it still might have some potential, although I can’t imagine that I will ever come back to it again to find out. It’s not a book for me. And that’s fine. Maybe it is a book for you. And that’s also fine. Actually that’s great. I’m glad and happy and all that. For me, though, if I need a creepy satanic cult fix, I’ll find it elsewhere.
Winnebago Graveyard #2