The Autumnal #1
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artist: Chris Shehan
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Editor: Adrian F. Wassel
Publisher: Vault Comics
If someone were to tell me that Vault Comics’ The Autumnal was printed on the orange and yellow leaves of fall, I’d be hard-pressed not to believe them. This book takes its title to heart, both in its seasonal tones and in the air of the supernatural that comes with them. What makes the book special, though, is how it takes that and combines it into a story that so casually guides one into deeply unsettling territory.
Written by Daniel Kraus and illustrated by Chris Shehan, with colors by Jason Wordie, The Autumnal follows Kat Somerville and her daughter, Sybil, as they are confronted with a death in their estranged family that forces a not-so-pleasant trip back home.
This first issue favors character development and world-building over plot progression. It’s a curious approach given that the settings Kat and Sybil find themselves in are quite mundane. And yet, there’s a force behind them that pushes into the inevitable horrors that’ll the protagonists will have to face later on.
Shehan’s art steals the show in this first entry. The story’s imbued with an eerie sense of phantasmagoria in that the story progressively feels more dream-like the closer it gets to its more terrifying revelations. Shehan’s visual style can be dark and gritty in one page only to be warm and colorful the next.
There’s a kind of dark fairy tale aspect to the visuals as well, with certain pages containing falling leaves coming into the panels from the edges. This is what I was referring too when I said the book felt like fall. Wordie’s colors, on the other hand, expertly capture the colors associated with the season, finding ways to further develop the world Kat and Sybil will slowly get sucked into.
Kraus has found two incredibly likeable and complex characters in Kat and Sybil. The mother/daughter relationship unravels in a very intimate fashion, meaning they wear their temperaments and worldviews on their sleeves. One of the main ideas Kraus seems to be interested in exploring is generational trauma and how it can so viciously get passed down from parent to child.
Along with their temperament, Kat and Sybil also have their traumas in full display. These two strong protagonists have been through the grinder, and in some instances they look as if proverbially put together with tape and staples, but they do look as if they’ve earned every second of life they breath in and out. A lot rides on how their family history untangles throughout the story, but the character development at work here is strong enough to make sure readers come back for more.
The comic’s final page opens up a slew of questions that don’t seem to guarantee happy answers. But they are intriguing and the two characters who will be pursuing those answers are special enough to warrant we open our wallets to support the rest of the series. Make sure you put The Autumnal on your pull list.