This week’s lead review is The Cull #1, an intriguing new book that straddles horror and teen adventurePlus, 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!

The Cull #1The Cull #1

Written by Kelly Thompson
Illustrated and colored by Mattia de Iulis
Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Edits by Charles Beacham

For some reason that’s far outstayed its welcome, people love to describe original stories by alluding to combinations of past works that they think help lure interested parties in. Maybe it’s the idea, or hope, that the familiar acts as a hook, a green light signaling it’s okay to give the story a chance. For instance, something that’s a cross between Pretty Woman and The Dark Knight might make a cautious reader take the plunge. They’ll find there’s a bit of two other movies they know about and feel comfortable with in the new thing.

Kelly Thomson and Mattia de Iulis’s The Cull resists that familiarity. In fact, comparing it to anything that came before it to welcome in new readers doesn’t quite do the work justice. The Cull is quite simply The Cull, and those who delve into it will find it is more than enough.

The story follows five friends that are planning to shoot a short film in a strange rock formation in their hometown, found in a place called Black Water Beach. Each character is introduced via their respective familial situations, each containing problems and worries that’ll follow them straight into adulthood, as they wake up very early into the morning to meet up and head to the rock. Something strange lies inside the rock, something with the capacity to welcome in monsters (as the first few pages of issue #1 reveal). The rest you’ll have to read for yourself.

Thompson has concocted a wondrously diverse cast of characters that feel instantly relatable the moment you meet them. These aren’t little kids. They’re older, which means the innocence through which many other stories filter their experiences is absent here. Characters carry a weight and a sense of consequence to them that makes them feel both real and vulnerable. 

The Cull #1

Their backstories, which certainly seem like they’ll be explored through flashbacks in subsequent issues, cover a range of anxieties that go from abuse to broken parental figures. One in particular is dealing with a lost brother, a detail that grows more serious as certain events unravel. In the short time allotted in the first issue, Thompson manages to set a very compelling and beautifully chaotic stage for her characters to traverse, filled with perilous obstacles that will force the group to reevaluate their takes on life and how to survive it.

Mattia de Iulis’ art is absolutely breathtaking, in every single aspect. Characters carry an electricity that gives them life in every panel. Every line is purposefully placed to build a believable person. It goes to down to their fashion sense, their hair styles, and their very carefully orchestrated facial expressions. De Iulis is putting on a masterclass on character creation in The Cull and it deserves attention. 

The same carries over to worldbuilding. Houses, bedrooms, and kitchens are all given several layers of story, founded on key details that evoke family memories of all kinds inhabiting these spaces. The glimpses we get of otherworldly things are astonishing, with a giant monster featured among them that looks too real for comfort. The color palette employed prioritized texture, and it helps give the world a real sense of plausibility.

Thompson and de Iulis are completely immersed in the same creative dimension for this story. It’s one of the reasons, out of many, that helps make this new series come off as so urgently fresh. Is it possible to compare to other things that came before it? Of course. Is it necessary? No. The Cull commands attention on the basis of its own independent strength, on its ability to stake a claim on its own merits. The first issue is a resounding statement on story and the trust creators should put in exploring ideas with the intention of pushing them further. The Cull is certainly taking this sentiment to heart.

Verdict: BUY

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Archie Horror: Chilling Adventures Presents… Strange Science #1: This one-shot by Magdalene Visaggio, Butch Mapa, Ellie Wright, and Jack Morelli sees Danni and Jinx traveling through time (using a device that looks a lot like the “What If…? Machine”) in order to rescue Dilton from a sort of “Langoliers” frozen-past situation. Unfortunately, just like in the “Langoliers,” they’re confronted by a “monster” in the process – in this case, Echo, an echo of Danni’s pre-transition self. I especially enjoyed the use of redshift and blueshift to add some legitimate science to this science fiction story. The color, lettering, and other sequential graphic narrative techniques (like wavering panel borders) add extra layers of meaning to this interesting one-shot. Hopefully, these characters will be continued to be explored in future issues, just as we’ve already been introduced to Jinx and Danni in previous Archie Horror one-shots. But if Archie Comics is really so dedicated to keeping these Archie Horror stories contained in one-and-done packages, maybe we could get a couple of graphic novels. These one-shots consistently engage and entertain, but almost always leave me wanting more. – Avery Kaplan
  • Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1 (IDW Publishing): Beyond the glitz and glamor of the silver screen, there was never any doubt the stars of Hollywood faced their own troubles as much as the industry and the stars themselves wished to hide it. In Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special #1, writer Jeremy Lambert and artist Claire Roe showcase a wartime tale of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars doing their part to support the war effort by travelling town to town across America, all the while each is weighed down by personal demons moments away from pushing them over the edge. The tonal shift of the comic into period horror at one of their many stops arrives as eerily as their titular train does into station. With stunning colors from Jordie Bellaire and atmosphere-setting letters from Becca Carey, what you get is a comic that’s a cross between a classic film found on TCM and psychological horror movie. By the end of the issue, I’m afraid to find out just who the Mismatch Man is… —Bryan Reheil
  • Disney Villains – Hades #1 (Dynamite): Disney Villains: Hades #1 visits Disney’s Hercules antagonist. Writer Elliot Kalan remixes Greek myths for the world of Hercules while also adding a level of modernity that elevates the charm of the writing when introducing familiar characters and letting them bounce off of Hades. The creative team covers familiar motivations; a man left out, scorned by his lack of inclusion within the Pantheon’s festivities. Dissatisfied with his current position, Hades decides on “doubling down on the evil thing” in the hopes of destroying the Gods once and for all. The art is done by Alessandro Ranaldi whose line work has a strong variation between thick and thin which works well to capture the visual aesthetics of the movie. Ranaldi’s characters are expressive and the cartoon nature of the work lends itself to the characters having the space to emote and it be over the top and beyond that, allow the room for visual iconography to highlight Ranaldi’s strong character work. This book is gorgeous and the colors are a part of this, from the palettes to the use of color holds, everything meshes and is vibrant. Finally, the lettering ties everything together from onomatopoeia to using colored lettering within the speech balloons. Disney Villains: Hades #1 is smartly written and gorgeous to look at; worth checking out. –Khalid Johnson
  • Dwellings #1 (Oni Press): This is a superb debut for Jay Stephens’ new bi-monthly horror mini. The juxtaposition of a retro style (reminiscent of a Richie Rich or Planet Terry) and the dark subject matter make this book a compelling read from start to finish. Ben Day dots and vivid colors sell this completely, making this feel like another gruesome edition of Tales from the Crypt. Two stories are included in this issue, and Stephens goes to some seriously dark places, depicting truly terrifying scenes with plenty of over the top gore. Although there are a couple of transitions that feel somewhat wonky, this doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the issue, as long as blood and guts don’t throw you for a loop. The central setting of Elwich, MA, and shared characters between the two shorts hint toward more sinister implications that will hopefully be explored even further in the next installment. –Cy Beltran

Read more entries in the Wednesday Comics reviews series!