Overview

Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward #1

Review

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Silent Hill: Sinner's Reward #1

Credits

  • Words: Tom Waltz
  • Art: Steph Stamb
  • Inks: Steph Stamb
  • Colors: Steph Stamb
  • Story Title: Sinner's Reward
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Feb 27, 2008

After a movie and several comic book mini-series, all of which replayed the sensibilities and general intent of their source material (well, except for the movie, which was perhaps too much of its own beast), Silent Hill at last gets a spin-off that’s strong enough to stand on its own two feet and yet embody all that makes the games the bloody horror-filled goodness they are, and yet it’s also a story that works as a story.

Jack is a mob hitman.  Jill is a mob boss’ wife.  Jack and Jill are on the run, together, a passion-fueled escape that doesn’t make it far: just to the outskirts of…you guessed it… Silent Hill, whereupon tragedy strikes.  The mob men catch up, Jack is attacked, Jill is held hostage, and the place to settle the score and get her back is the town on the border of a Hell-like dimension.  That part sounds relatively par for the Silent Hill course, but the merit of the book rests in its sheer character depth and wordsmithery strength, its shocking ability to be something more than a tired old retread.

How to make a licensed story worthwhile?  If you can’t really change anything or write the epic to end all epic moments of the franchise, how do you write a simple tie-in without it becoming instantly obsolete?  Writer Tom Waltz, an expectation-defying new talent when it comes to handling either his own comics (Children of the Grave) or even another celebrity’s paper-thin conceit (Zipper), once again defies those pesky expectations by establishing a profound character in runaway mob man Jack.  Not that there’s anything unique to Jack in basic mold.  In fact, he’s a relatively by-the-books characterization: troubled childhood, abusive father that trained him to be a killer (kind of a Cain/Batgirl relationship going here), and then an identity crisis that leads him to ply for a better (or at least different) life with Jill.

But safe and familiar clichés are never more enjoyable than when a writer stops on by and presents them with an intelligence and dexterity hardly ever before seen, showing that, in general, it’s never been shown properly at all.  Waltz opens with a fantastic first two pages, an extremely clever set-up, and from thereon in never lets up for a single panel, swinging between Jack’s past, his inner doubts, his innate ferocity, and the menace of a looming Silent Hill and the mob men that act as catalysts for more.  It’s a naturally-paced machine of a comic that pours heart and soul and misery and tragedy and approaching terror all into one bow-tied package.  It hardly matters that this is a “Silent Hill” book.  It’s a phenomenal horror comic, or a phenomenal start at any rate.

Of course, who would ever give the story of a comic the time of day if the art didn’t impel them to?  And Steph Stamb will impel, and compel, and twist all of your limbs at once while tears stream down your eyes in lieu of blinking.  His art is extremely atmospheric and layered, an excellent choice for a Silent Hill book, grotesque and drenched in stylistic smudges and grit and slathered in sepia and other such modern day horror necessities.  His layouts are organic, his action gorgeous, and there’s a slight photorealistic stiffness to the characters that enhances the creep factor sweetly.

All in all, Sinner’s Reward is an excellent horror book, and for once, it’s a book enhanced for being a franchise-related thing rather than a pure stand alone.  Waltz utilizes the legendary status of Hill to superb effect, and when coupled with Stamb’s pages, the actual comic becomes something rare to find.  So take advantage and enjoy this.  We won’t, likely, get another like it anytime soon.

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