By Paul Tobin, Juan Ferreyra, Eduardo Ferreyra, and Nate Piekos
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack is back and he’ll make you sick. Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra return to their patented flourish of horrific delirium with the return of the luridly playful Nimble Jack. Colder: Toss The Bones #1 is as unsettling as you could possibly want it to be as it deftly balances the domesticity of a now fingerless Declan and Reece going about their daily conventions with the ghastly ruminations and acts of the series’ foremost antagonist. Much how the majority of Colder has been shaped by this vivid contrast that slowly gives way to a blended insanity, this issue serves as an effective and mesmerizing microcosm of all that has come before. There are gaps that request some leaps of faith and some lack of definition (both literally and figuratively) but by and large the tandem of Tobin and Ferreyra again imprint gruesomely beautiful images that will ensure some restless nights. If nothing else, you’ll never look at pigeons quite the same way again.
One of Colder’s greatest strengths is also occasionally a shortcoming in how it asks the reader to make allowances for the dynamics of its world. While never delving into straight contrivance, the physics of this pernicious nether-realm and its inhabitants and how it interacts with the “real” world are ambiguous. This in turn creates a sense of horror, buoyed by the truly heinous creature design of Ferreyra; an uneasy feeling that anything can happen and when it does it will must assuredly be just absolutely abhorrent. Things work as they must to best serve and echo the insanity and insecurity of the subject matter even if they instill an air of omnipotence into Nimble Jack and uncanny inconvenience into his targets. The best advice for experiencing the craziness of this world is to just go with it and reap the visceral rewards.
Tobin toys with the possibilities of the “how”, but never the intent or motivations of his characters. Reece and Declan have been through the harrowing events of The Bad Seed, which has left them both unsure about the man Declan truly was and possibly is. Oh, and yeah, dude also lost all his fingers. In this issue Tobin has them believably dance that awkward dance around the debased truths by scripting some stellar couple-at-the-store dialogue that serves as both a charmingly familiar routine as well as a striking contrast to the sinister deeds and words of Nimble Jack throughout the issue. Reece is almost impossibly accepting of the newfound details of Declan’s past while still feeling utterly real in how she relates to him. After all the impossibilities she’s experienced, what’s the difference really? They’re both playing house while still realizing that’s what they’re doing; it’s probably the only way to stay sane. Their back-and-forth about why they need to shop at multiple markets, the comfort of playing video games on the couch with dinner perilously balanced on her lap, the partial return to her role as caregiver, etc. is all as effective and enticing as the inexplicable terror wrought by Jack.
Make no mistake, Jack is the star of this issue and rightly so. Tobin shapes him as delightfully twisted as ever, but with a chink in his armor this time around. He was killed by the “man who grew colder” and has been humbled as a result, which in turn makes him even more dangerous. It’s his journey we follow this issue with Declan and Reece serving as the intermissions and Tobin walks us through the machinations of an even more unhinged Jack who now views Declan less as a meal and more as an imposing foe. He delights in his rebirth and slightly more childish as a result, thought it’s just as unsettling. Like the Joker with a limitless amount of supernatural ability, Tobin subtly hints at Jack’s larger schemes and the thematic sense of paranoia this arc will utilize. Perhaps this loving home that Declan and Reece have formed will unravel as the bands of trust they have get pecked apart by the paranoia pigeons and worse revelations are brought to the forefront.
Juan Ferreyra has always excelled at crafting worlds and beings of unimaginable horror, but one can also see how far he’s come in regards to displaying the more mundane aspects in the real world. There’s a softer finish to the characters and a smoother flow than when this series started and now Ferreyra’s incorporating some watercolor technique to bolster it as well. The opening sequence of the pigeon man and Jack is a tightly paced pastoral nightmare. The angles and perspective smartly transition and never create a static quality to the action as the earliest issue occasionally did. Ferreyra has Jack live up to his moniker throughout the issue as his acrobatic frame contorts effortlessly in between decapitations and soul eating. Obviously, Ferreyra’s amongst the best when it comes to monstrous design and this issue’s anglerfish-inspired nightmare of teeth and muscle is yet another truly repulsive feather in his horror hat.
With some assistance from Eduardo Ferreyra, the colors in Toss The Bones are easily the best they’ve ever been. A controlled palette of contrasting warms and cools, the texturing is what really adds that extra dimension with its ability to instill a dreamlike obscurity. Everything sits atop a soft assuring bottom layer of brushstrokes and dabs allowing the more rigid forefront lines to truly pop. The glints of drool and mucous coat of the anglerfish pigeon monster (hey, you try coming up with a good name for it) add a chromatic finish that only further highlights just how good Ferreyra is at making your nightmares a reality. Whenever Jack eats it’s a prismatic cornucopia that robs all that surround it of their light.
It’s a soothing affair then a cold one then an ashen one and back again; a watercolored backdrop that accentuates the prominent circus atrocities. The panels lack borders allowing for a jagged and torn aesthetic that perfectly mirrors the nature of hopping between the Hunger World and Boston with the gutters being hopelessly black in one and perfectly white in the other. It’s wicked disconcerting and effective. There’s some playfulness with the gutters as well with how it serves as the invisible door between panels complete with knob and peephole that’s cute and effective. The double-page splash featuring a bus moves beautifully and is made all the more disturbing with the storybook quality of the panels and shifting shadow of the gutters. It’s painterly and subtle while creating weightlessness, and therefore powerlessness, to the way the worlds operate.
While the Hunger World has always benefitted from being far more imaginatively defined than the real world events (and made all the better by Ferreyra’s talents) this issue takes that perhaps too far with a dearth of backgrounds in several scenes that overplays this idea. Declan and Reece are awash in saturated cools that certainly emphasize their current morose dilemma (coming to terms with the whole serial killing finger harvester thing) but also obscures any sense of either established reality. They might as well be literally in an abyss if the only defining characteristics of a page-long scene are two shelves and a randomly placed window. It’s a minor quibble, but it’s enough to take you out of the moment and disrupt the narrative flow. On the whole, the gruesome details of what’s shown and what’s only hinted at of the Hunger World remain chilling, the sinister agility of Nimble Jack as haunting, and the quiet, structured domesticity of Declan and Reece’s life as uneasy as ever.
If you haven’t been chilled to your core by Colder before, go back and delve into the madness before jumping into Toss The Bones #1. For those that are fluent in its consternate calamity, it satisfyingly delivers with a newfound sense of control. Declan and especially Reece have inexplicably rationalized and compartmentalized all that’s come before, but Tobin and Ferreyra look to upend what shaky foundations they’ve managed to build. The lithe horror that is Nimble Jack is back and like the mechanics of the Colder Universe itself, virtually without boundaries. (On Sale September 30th!)