The air of struggle and sadness felt by an overwhelmed parent can be difficult to capture in a comic book, but the creators of Curse #1 (Boom! Studios) are more than willing to give it a shot.
And so it is that Curse #1 centers on family drama, while keeping the mystery of its nightmarish beast largely off to the side. It's a pretty brave gambit for a horror comic, but creators Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer find a way to make it work. They start things off with their main character Laney trapping some kind of nemesis in a room that's impossible to escape. From there, the story flashes back to where it needs to for character setup and plot staging. As we learn more and more about Laney's life and family, we find that our sympathies are meant to lie with a decent man who's trying the best he can. He's a widower who's low on cash and is dealing with an ailing son (all signs point to cancer). All of this material is meant to not only engender empathy in us, but also to lead the reader to understand his decision to go out monster hunting.
This is what makes Curse #1 such a smartly-structured issue; every bit of domestic drama in the issue eventually works as a delivery system for the oncoming horror elements. While there are drops of plot along the way that show us that there is a monster on the loose that's responsible for the grisly slayings out in the woods, the comic is really about a desperate man who is being beaten down by life and is now trapped in a reality where monsters (at least one, anyway) exist. The drama is hardly innovative, and some of the exposition is rather on-the-nose (try to find a new #1 where that isn't a problem, though), but it's effective and the issue works as a whole, narratively. It's pretty remarkable visually, as well. Lorimer and Rossmo don't particularly have a lot in common in terms of style, but the latter's wildly kinetic and energetic abstractions look of a piece with the former's more straightforward rendering of people and environments. Rossmo, as could be expected, handles scenes where the monster (which we do see in full view...think "werewolf" or "wendigo") stalks and kills its unfortunate prey. His slashes of linework and color denote the chaos inherent in horror when it comes to wildly gnashing teeth and claws rending flesh, bone, and gristle. If you need a frightening killer monster in your comic, you can do worse than giving Riley Rossmo a call.
Lorimer handles his portion of the visuals wonderfully. His figures are well-rendered, and his storytelling is excellent. Lorimer executes the panel-to-panel flow with the eye of a great film editor. His sense of pacing expertly establishes the rhythm of the story, and he is able to alternate between wide shots and more intimate closeups perfectly, allowing him to keep even conversation scenes visually dynamic. So many comic book pencillers are unable to successfully put together a proper sense of composition and craft as well as Lorimer does here (one particular highlight is the sequence where Laney first comes face to face with the monster he's hunting). In addition, his muted color palette grounds the story in a relatable space while complementing (and contrasting, in some places), Rossmo's wilder, more primal fright work.
Curse #1 leans heavily on a sense of latent expectation to carry its drama through to a second issue. It happens to pique enough curiosity and execute its intentions well enough that it should successfully invite readers to take a look at subsequent issues (as well as a few re-readings of this one). Its emotions and mystery are solid, and the horror contained is just bloody and foreboding enough that it makes the comic an overall success.