The House #1 By Drew Zucker, Phillip Sevy and Jen Hickman
The House is a classic haunted house story with genuine scope. Using an expanded legacy to reveal a series of horrific events surrounding a single location, The House presents an epic quality not often found in horror comics. From the very first page readers will no doubt realize there’s more to the story than a thin anecdotal plot with a linear approach. On the contrary, creators Drew Sucker and Phillip Sevy offer a well-rounded story that can dip in an out of moments from the past while illustrating circumstances surrounding all-new characters in a more modern setting. It’s a fun book with plenty of scary moments and an all around creepy vibe, but more than that it’s a book full of backstory enough to seemingly fill volumes. You have to hand it to the creative team for conveying that sense of longevity in just one issue.
Great artwork and pacing help us to track scenes that move randomly from past to present, and back again. It makes sense along the way, although you’ll want to pay attention if only so you can pick up details that may very well help you invest in the current timeline. More than a few classic spooky moments help build tension that only partially pay off in this first issue, though we do get enough information to understand that circumstances will only grow more dire with subsequent issues. Don’t be worried about drifting into the past either because there’s plenty of forward momentum here. Action and surprises create plenty of interests to motivate readers to engage. Questions that arise are intriguing enough to allow for sparse answers, and it’s almost entertaining enough to watch the characters endure frights and thrills, whether they make it out alive or not.
Phillip Sevy builds on a terrific premise by utilizing a team of World War II soldiers in order to advance the story from concept to plot. Common tropes and well-known character profiles from war comics and movies help guide readers along without the need for a ton of exposition. The authentic rapport between them makes for smoother interactions and lets us focus on the situation they find themselves in rather than who they are individually. Yes, character development is important, but in this case the haunted house itself is central so everyone and everything else can take a back seat, at least for issue #1. At any rate, the soldiers’ inclusion in the story was a great idea and the perfect means of keeping us grounded in the real world.
Creator and artist Drew Zucker has a style more than suitable for comics, while maintaining a level of realism appropriate for some relatively serious content. It’s not a blood and guts book – not yet anyway – although there are plenty of moments that you may want to look away from initially. The gore is done with taste, using color and panel arrangements to artfully present the worst of it. Through expressive emotion and considered use of content allow for the story to unfold in a way that makes it easy on the reader. You may flinch, you may gasp, but it’s never anything but an enjoyable reading experience. Dynamic lighting and angles give the illustrations a skewed perspective, keeping us on the edge wondering what may happen next while giving our eyes plenty to take in. It’s a remarkable achievement when you are simultaneously admiring the artwork while reacting to the subject of the drawings themselves. Jen Hickman’s color palettes elicit emotional responses and expertly cue violence and terror. Ghostly backgrounds with soft muted textures allow images to stay with you long after finishing the comic. If you didn’t know it, you’d think this book was published by one of the big guys, but it’s a combination of talent and skill worthy of your attention and something you should consider budgeting for. Although you may want to read this book with one eye closed, you’ll likely be disappointed at the end for having missed even a single moment of elegance on behalf of Zucker, Sevy, and Hickman.
The House is one of the rare books that does horror so well it could make the competition look lazy. Starting with a good story is key, but creating a foundation that can be built on for a long time to come is nothing short of impressive. Hats off to these guys! Looking forward to a second issue has never been so thrilling.