“You will have her. She will have you. Together you will bend and sway in infinity’s wind, fate’s hard rain, mud’s eternal pull.”
I feel like every year I mention that another book from Vault Comics is one of the best horror stories of that year. That decade. All time. Outside of maybe early Vertigo, I’ve never seen another publisher or imprint release so many surefire great reads. These Savage Shores. Black Stars Above. Resonant. Fearscape. The Plot. Human Remains. Not even counting the other genres that they publish. I have not read a single comic from them that was less than good, most have been great. Last year’s superlative horror that I think everyone should read is The Autumnal by Daniel Kraus, Chris Sheehan, Jason Wordie, and Jim Campbell.
The Autumnal is essentially folk horror, delving into the mystery of the small town of Comfort Notch and the legend of Clementine Biddle. It’s told through the perspective of Kat Somerville, a former resident who left as a child, now has a daughter of her own, and returns when she inherits her mother’s old home. There she finds a number of hostile residents, weird children’s rhymes, and an aversion to the leaves.
It’s fascinating how Daniel Kraus weaves through the local legends and mythology, and the changing nature of those myths and the children’s rhyme, building the mystery of what really happened and what’s going on. How the rhymes are incorporated onto the page really gives Jim Campbell an opportunity to shine, as well as some unique word balloons for Clementine.
That intricacy of design is present in the art from Chris Sheehan and Jason Wordie as well. Sheehan uses a rough, scratchy style for many of the characters, with thick black shadows fitting the atmosphere. It’s framed, though, in a very interesting way. The panels themselves are mostly borderless and don’t always have a uniform shape to their edges. It gives it an open feeling, that’s then sometimes further enhanced by leaves falling across the page. Befitting a story of haunted and creepy nature, with the leaves potentially being the enemy, there’s an overall earthy feel to the Wordie’s colours. Browns, oranges, and greens standout as the key choices.
What really grabs me in this story is the sense of community. I think that’s where the horror of the tale really excels. What happens when you’re an outsider, your relationship with your family, your relationship with your hometown, and the lengths that people will go to in order to protect that community. For good or ill.
The Autumnal by Kraus, Sheehan, Wordie, and Campbell is a great spooky story going in to Halloween. It captures the essence of the season and the terror inherent in the fall of nature. It delivers a compelling, intriguing folk horror mystery and reveals us in both the nobility of sacrifice and the terror of forcing others to make that sacrifice.
Classic Comic Compendium: THE AUTUMNAL
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artist: Chris Sheehan
Colourist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics – Nightfall
Following the death of her estranged mother, Kat Somerville and her daughter Sybil flee a difficult life in Chicago for the quaint-and possibly deadly-town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire. From NY Times best-selling author, Daniel Kraus (The Shape of Water, Trollhunters, The Living Dead), and rising star Chris Shehan, comes a haunting vision of America’s prettiest autumn.
Release Date: September 21, 2021 (complete series collection)
Read last week’s addition to the Classic Comic Compendium!