Royal Nonesuch reviews Abattoir #1, published by Radical Comics and created by one of the masterminds of the Saw movie franchise!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Written by Rob Levin and Troy Peteri
Art by Bing Cansino
Cover by Tae Young Choi
From director Darren Lynn Bousman comes a chilling, supernatural tale set in the cold beauty of Middle America in the late 80s. After a brutal massacre takes place in a gorgeous house, real estate agent and family man Richard Ashwalt is assigned the impossible task of picking up the pieces and selling the property. As Richard inspects the blood-soaked grounds, a twisted old man journeys to the house with a sinister and terrifying purpose. Richard is about to be drawn into a web of shadows, murders and massacres that will shatter him to his very core!
One would expect a comic book entitled ABATTOIR to start off with a man going on a bloody rampage at his own child's birthday party (the clowns are always the first to suffer). What may be more surprising is when that same issue turns out to be more of a slice-of-life drama than outright gorefest.
And yet, after the gruesome prologue, ABATTOIR #1 is really about a man and his place in the world. The reader learns a lot about the life of Richard Ashwalt. With some oblique references to a troubled past, the creators show us that Richard is a cop turned real estate agent who's having trouble at his job as well as in his marriage and is just trying not to get crushed by the weight of the world on his shoulders. It is the trying that makes him so readable. Richard is not one to fall into mopey self-pity or get depressed by his lot in life. He makes an honest go at moving forward and getting himself through it. Even when a too-good-to-be-true offer comes up, he balks at it and immediately starts to cite procedure (the ex-cop in him, no doubt). Richard's unfailing virtue is used smartly in that when he becomes a "person of interest" in a murder investigation later in the issue, it's hard for the reader to doubt his innocence. Of course, this is clearly a book where things are not what they appear and things can turn in an instant.
The appearance of Jebediah Crone in the issue is an unsettling one. He is very eager to buy the house where the massacre from the opening scene took place, and since Richard is the agent with the unenviable task of selling the place, their two paths cross in a spooky way, which is what gets the plot going. This is also where some expository clunkiness comes into play. Richard's boss (for some reason the spitting image of Gary Cole's character from the film Office Space) talks about a local urban legend that seems to elucidate Crone's MO exactly (though he doesn't make him sound that threatening). The dialogue is a little too on-the-nose at times, and labored at others, but the pacing and character construction and relationships work well enough to compensate for all that.
Artist Bing Cansino and colorist Andrei Pervukhin deliver the weighty, realistic artwork that is typical for a Radical Comics publication. The storytelling here is very strong and the figure drawings are consistent and the sense of place is very well realized. The use of lighting is also excellent (which is good to see, considering that seems to be an afterthought in so many comics nowadays). The contrast and work with light and shadows is help the story along perfectly.
ABATTOIR #1 is meant to be a tonal establishment of the characters and world, and in that regard it succeeds (though the nebulous "late 1980's" setting doesn't seem to bring anything unique to the table...there doesn't seem to be any reason this story could not have been set in the present day, or any other point in America's suburban history). For fans looking for a simple horror plot, it's good to remember that it can pay off to take the time to get to know the characters before watching them get put through the ringer. The structure of this issue is reminiscient of the first act of John Carpenter's first Halloween film, wherein we live with Laurie Strode and her friends while never being allowed to forget the danger they're in.
Review by: Royal Nonesuch