Overview

Heathentown OGN

Review

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Heathentown OGN

Credits

  • Words: Corinna Sara Bechko
  • Art: Gabriel Hardman
  • Inks: Gabriel Hardman
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Image Comics/Shadowline Entertainment
  • Price: $9.99
  • Release Date: Jan 21, 2009

Heathentown is an OGN, meaning it’s complete unto itself, thick, a real epic of a story, not shortened or clipped to fit a specific mini-series format or left incomplete in hopes of a sequel.  It is, plain and simply, an adventure not unlike a novel, very much like a collected pulp serial of old.  And this particular one is just shy of 100 pages, a mere 10 bucks, and coming at’cha from Image and Shadowline.  What is it?  Who made it?

It’s a black-and-white horror adventure, following a girl named Anna Romano, as she returns to the United States after a trip to Africa, though sadly to bury a friend who died there during a violent upheaval in Chad.  But said friend is buried in Florida, where her family lives, near swamplands which is a setting where (as horror buffs know) things are never what they seem, a truth especially manifest after Anna discovers that her friend…well…but that would be telling.  Needless to say, things get weird, and when the horror hits, it hits big .  Anna is on the run for her life, as the supernatural and the very natural conspire to keep the secret of “Heathentown”!

Written by Corinna Sara Bechko with incredibly detailed art by Gabriel Hardman, Heathentown is the first big print work by the same creative duo that assembled the Zuda Comics entry “The Crooked Man”.  Artist Hardman has additionally worked on The Black Coat from Ape Entertainment, and currently is cheering the hearts of critics everywhere with his remarkable turn (shifting his art into a blistering new style) as artist on the “spaghetti wasteland” epic, The Wind Raider, also from Ape.  Here in Heathentown, Hardman wields a classic, detail-laden style like an old-school Bernie Wrightson ground together in a mortar with a peppering of modern day Michael Lark.  The pages are incredibly polished, carefully laid out, and at first glance appear as though they took Hardman years to finish.

Gabriel put it best in his most quoted statement on the ‘net: “Atmosphere is everything. With Heathentown I set out to combine classic and modern visual styles to produce a look both fresh and timeless.”  Due to the story itself being a hybrid of old-world and new-world narrative techniques, Heathentown proves more than a good story with solid art - it’s a great story, with awesome art.

I could go on at length about the disappointment horror comics have been of late, sub-par and frustratingly average if not awful.  While I dance, and dance sprightly at the resurgence of the horror genre in comics, saturation has already occurred, with too many “filler” type tales that are little more than variations on old and overdone themes, not to mention the complete lack of character and innovation in plot or execution.  There have been exceptions, but far too few.  For this alone, Heathentown is an ice cold glass of water on a hot, hot day, or steaming hot tea on a cold winter’s night: it’s revitalizing.  I’d forgotten that horror could be this much of an adventure story at its core, like H.G. Wells or Burroughs might have made it.  Hell, Stoker used to make ‘em like this.  Weird, eerie, creepy, bloody when it counts, and ultimately, an audacious journey of the hero through a world they never knew (and never wanted to know!) existed.

Writer Bechko is fabulous with knowing when to do the talky talky bit and when to clam up, and she does both, often, and with equal aplomb.  Heathentown is both a stunningly visual experience, silent and deadly and vicious, as well as a nuanced contemplation on belonging and cultural divide.  The characters come through as characters—not quirktastic eccentric loons that pass for real personalities in modern pop culture (which is starting to bleed into how we think we should behave in real life—gah!  Spare me!)—but actual clay-of-the-earth individuals with understandable and natural perceptions, fears, and hopes.  And Heathentown isn’t even a character-centric piece, it just has solid characters, running around inside a pretty damn engaging horror plot.

Image Comics occasionally does this: produces an OGN that blows all the mini-series and new ongoings right out of the “this is good, you should read this right now” sky (thinking of The Nightmarist and Iron West and more).  Shadowline, to my knowledge, has never done this to date, at least not with an OGN (they do, to their credit, publish Cemetery Blues and Bomb Queen). But both do this without question with the horror adventure gem Heathentown.  This is solid pulp classic adventure and super-duper-horror.  With unbelievably gorgeous black-and-white classic art.  The most enjoyable straight-laced horror comic I’ve read in a long while.  Definitely the best OGN of its kind I’ve read…I think ever.

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For more information on Heathentown and Gabriel Hardman, visit Gabriel’s Comicspace page:   http://www.comicspace.com/heathencomics

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