by Cullen Bunn and A. C. Zamudio
Though Cullen Bunn has been involved with many different stories and genres, one thing he has a real affinity for is dark storytelling. With his latest title, published by Monkeybrain Comics, Bunn looks to bring readers into a new dark world. With a title like The Remains, and a cover that is mostly black, fans of his work should have a pretty good idea of the type of story found inside. Fortunately, Bunn has proven that he is more than capable at telling scary stories, and with A. C. Zamudio on art, The Remains is in good hands.
The first moments of the story communicate a lot of information about this world. As the story closes in on a farm, readers learn about the characters, the setting and there is a magnificent sense of dread filling the narration. Birdie, as the lead character is called, paints an unsettling image in the minds of readers. She talks of dead rats dancing, and though it makes little sense, it is impactful. A man comes upon the home, looking for shelter and a place to stay. He offers his assistance in exchange and Birdie’s father accepts. Narrating from a point in time set forty years from these events; Birdie speaks of this moment as something she wishes she could have prevented. And even as this is yet another instance where readers are provided little context, Bunn’s writing manages to accomplish much more by withholding.
Zamudio, who worked on Real West for Monkeybrain, captures the mood of the environment and story very well. The depiction of the man, Cole Jensen, is strange and even without words, would lend to a sense of distrust. Birdie described him as looking as though he were a scarecrow who climbed from his perch. A wanderer with an off-putting smile, there is a lot of mystery communicated in his physicality. Readers also can feel a real authenticity to the farm grounds. Birdie’s family home has a lot of character and Zamudio’s rendering of this setting is just as important as Bunn’s script in developing the tone here. Great uses of lighting and color are very effective throughout this first chapter. Readers will be able to place themselves in these circumstances, and thus Zamudio engages them impressively.
Bunn does not simply rely on the creepy and dark in his writing. He includes brief moments, seemingly benign, to give readers a sense of Birdie and her younger sister Abigail through their interactions. The girls banter in a very honest way, and readers can infer much of the dynamics of this family and life on the farm through normal conversations and tasks they must carry out. As the story reaches its final act, the opening narration comes back into play and readers may be caught off guard at what transpires. It might not be so obvious just what takes places between the day Cole Jensen arrives and the time from when Birdie tells this story. Readers are given neither location nor a date. Clues hint at a certain era, but Bunn and Zamudio avoid being definitive in the first issue of The Remains. Choosing to put the narrator so far in the future, paired with the restraint in revealing much of this new universe, the creators have a very strong opening story filled with mystery. Slated as part one of four, it won’t be long before The Remains ramps up.