This week’s main review is Hack/Slash – Back to School #1 by Zoe Thorogood, who brings a new energy to the long-running comicPlus, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

Comics to Buy for October 18Hack/Slash – Back to School #1

Writer/Artist/Letterer: Zoe Thorogood
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Michael Kurt

Hack/Slash is back (again), but this time at the hands of Zoe Thorogood. Thorogood created possibly my favorite comic of the last few years, which was an award-winning hit, It’s Lonely At The Center of the World, which was also released by Image Comics. It’s Lonely was so stuffed with heart and honesty that I had the feeling whatever came next was either going to be completely different or have some residual fallout. Hack/Slash, luckily, is a perfect fit for both scenarios. It’s fun, weird, and violent, but it also leaves room for personal resonance, and Back to School is no exception.

Back to School #1

In this 4-part series, Cassie Hack is introduced at a diner. On TV, a news story plays out about a child murdering their parents; in the diner, a disturbingly pink mascot delivers food; and we begin to read Cassie’s diary entries as she sits back watching the scene with burger in hand. She just started as a Slasher Hunter last month and wants to try to hold her own mind accountable, because things are getting pretty weird. Having almost accidentally murdered Vlad, she buys him a burger too – and the gang is back together.

One of the things I love about Zoe’s style is: even when adapting to another set of characters and situations, it’s so clear that her influences have won over previous styles. The characters take on a kind of sad beauty in the way they stare off into the distance, contemplating. Cassie in the diner is not cracking witty comebacks to Vlad, but instead (after almost murdering him) is trying to find a way to tell him she’s basically homeless and he better not expect her to bankroll them both. It has a depth to it that I think is really interesting in this context because in a moment’s notice the violence starts.

Back to School #1

The mascot has a machete and the heads of kids are starting to roll in this dang diner! Cassie has a gun, and a wooden bat, and she is up before she has time to even fully respond to the reality she is supposed to be in. This is represented in a clever way – the panels are cut in half diagonally: one one side is the present (violent, danger) and on the other is memory (danger, distress). It’s not the first time this kind of dual presentation of narrative has been used, but when you add it to the diary, and the character presentation, and everything else, it will be voluminous in emotional depth.

Hack/Slash Back to School #1 is out now from Image Comics! with writing and art by Zoe Thorogood.

Verdict: BUY TWICE

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Comics to Buy for October 18Beneath The Trees Where Nobody Sees #1 (IDW Publishing): The way Patrick Horvath masters that visual language of a Richard Scarry book is uncanny, but make no mistake: this is a frightening comic, made especially terrifying by the juxtaposition of cute, picture book aesthetics and mutilated anthropomorphic animals. My day job is in children’s books, so seeing these soft pastels and adorable critters lulled me into a false sense of security before we got to the serial killer focus of the title. There’s a sequence of pages that’s particularly hard to read, featuring the dissection and dismemberment of a character that made me take a break from the lunch I was eating. As always, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou elevates the book with his superb lettering, adding to the picturesque feel of the issue. This book is freaky, but it’s a kind of freaky that begs to be revisited, so I know I’ll be sticking with this series and whatever horrible things happen next. Cy Beltran
  • Toybox of TerrorArchie Horror: Fear the Funhouse: Toybox of Terror #1 (Archie Comics): This book features a trio of horror stories, each of them about dolls. First up is the frame story, “Love Evernever,” with a story by Timmy Heague and line art by Ryan Caskey. Next comes “Ch3ryl,” with a story by Danielle Paige and line art by Tango. Finally, “The Gift that Keeps on Giving Killing” has a story by Michael Northrop and line art by Ryan Jampole. The whole issue has coloring by Matt Herms, lettering by Jack Morelli, and main cover by Caskey. The anthology shines by offering three very different styles of equally engaging art. While the Archie holiday anthologies are generally entertaining, Toybox of Terror is a cut above the rest. This issue strikes the perfect note between trick and treat, making it the perfect Halloweentime release for Archie Horror. Strongly recommended! Avery Kaplan
  • Headless Horseman Halloween Annual #1 (Dark Horse Comics):In the first annual Halloween anthology from Dark Horse comics, a variety of creators show their short horror stories in a diverse set of styles. I was really impressed by the breadth of current comic styles shown in this new annual anthology. Introduced by the Headless Horseman, in a throwback to Elvira-esque spooky shows that used to run on late night cable, this collection features a monster adventure story, an urban legend twist, teen baddies, a lovecraftian writer’s journey, and a twist on a haunted house. The second story, Some Wander, which was written by Angela Slatte, illustrated by Valeria Burzo, colored by Lauren Affe, and lettered by Frank Cvetkovic, was probably my favorite in the collection. Some Wander is a mostly silent comic that follows a wandering young girl into the woods on Halloween night. She’s followed by a mysterious smoking cowboy as she leaves town and enters the woods… But what he finds once he catches up to her is not what he expects! This is a fun collection of Halloween stories that would be a good to pick up for your more Halloween-forward teens. —Michael Kurt
  • Subgenre #1 (Dark Horse Comics): Playing to the strength of the trope of a detective in the future, Subgenre #1 sets a tone and atmosphere almost immediately that feels reminiscent of Blade Runner. As writer Matt Kindt explores the case that sets the story’s protagonist, Verge down his path, more layers reveal themselves, like valid criticisms of our ever-digitizing media scape and the soulless nature of A.I. “art”. This story seems like an excellent vehicle for those criticisms as Kindt takes our real-world contexts and injects them into this narrative while setting up more exploration around new narrative and genre conventions, making good on the series’ title. Artist Wilfredo Torres brings the story to life with clean line work and an eye for detail, ensuring the presentation of visual nuances between settings especially as we see different genres on display. Colorist Bill Crabtree heightens the volume of the characters and the sense of mood as the story moves from location to location, dipping from vibrant greens into softer palettes. Letterer Jim Campbell ties both the story and the moments together, demonstrating the shifts in genre conventions especially through the bubbles and caption boxes, with everything culminating in a solid first issue. —Khalid Johnson

The Prog Report

  • 2000 AD Prog 2354 (Rebellion Publishing): With this week’s Prog, I was very pleased to see my favorite fantasy monster (right out of a nigh-ubiquitous fantasy TTRPG) featured in writer Dan Abnett, artist Richard Elson, and letterer Jim Campbell’s Feral and Foe strip. I’m not talking about the owlbore from the opening, but rather the jellied isohedron in the piece’s ending. This monster is having moment right now after a memorable appearance in that certain fantasy TTRPG’s big screen adaptation, and it was very cool to see Elson’s visual take on it here as well. This story has just been a really great ensemble fantasy comic overall, too. As always, you can nab a copy of this week’s Prog here. —Zack Quaintance

Read more entries in the Wednesday Comics reviews series!