Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Joshua... what are you eating?! It's almost bedtime."
Thus begins what Robert Kirkman promises will be a proper horror, after some witty opening repartee which softens you up nicely for the initial shocker accompanying the quotation above. From the chap who pens arguably the most famous horror comic of all time, THE WALKING DEAD, that's a chilling statement. In fact what he really means, as he explains in the afterword he included after the first issue but sadly not reprinted here, is that whilst the possibility of a zombie apocalypse ever occurring is precisely zero - and, let's be honest, we all hope he's got it right on that score - there are other terrors which are all the more horrifying because they actually exist.
Yes, demonic possession is on the very cusp of fact versus fiction as he readily acknowledges, and he certainly doesn't want to get into any sort of religious debate about it, either. Ultimately he just wants to write an entertaining horror comic, disturbingly credible, with a genuinely creepy undertone to it, and this is the subject matter he has chosen.
I was initially sceptical that this premise could be spun into something with the same long-term potential as THE WALKING DEAD but, having read the first volume, one can see already Kirkman's got something epic in mind for us. The main character, Kyle - a man who as a boy saw his mother and then, years later, his wife succumb to demonic possession - is clearly a man with some story to tell, if only someone would believe him. Shunned by his now-ex-wife, and pretty much everyone else he previously knew with the exception of his sister, for reasons which are all too painfully clear by the end of this opener, he's become a complete recluse.
When the local Reverend, intimately aware of his past, tries to enlist Kyle's help with an exorcism, he initially refuses. But... when you've seen the things he's seen, suffered in the manner he has suffered, well, he knows he can't in all good conscience refuse to help another soul in torment. And that is why his problems are going to start all over again. And it's the why he has really got the problem with, the question that has bothered him all this time. Why him? Why is he the outcast? I can think of an answer, but I can't believe it's going to be that obvious, I sense some potential misdirection afoot.
Spectacularly pensive and brooding art from Paul Azaceta, ably augmented by the exceptional colourist Bettie VELVET Breitweiser, which keeps us permanently balanced right on that knife edge of lurking horror and pants-wetting fright. There is a real sense of building foreboding in this opening volume, as we believe we are gradually beginning to get at least some small measure of precisely what malice is tormenting the vulnerable fringes of the town. Then... the conclusion is a real, genuine shocker, as one of our main characters gets an absolutely terrifying visit that will leave a devastating lasting impression upon him... Ouch.