BASKETFUL OF HEADS #1
Writer: Joe Hill
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Editor: Mark Doyle & Amedeo Turturro
Publisher: DC Comics (Hill House Comics)
DISCLAIMER: Basketful of Heads contains moderate violence and themes of horror which some readers may find disturbing.
The first of five new horror series by Hill House Comics, Basketful of Heads promises an effective combination of Norse mythology and visual horror. The combination of Scandinavian folklore with the classic aesthetic of a 1980s slasher film creates an exciting premise for this mysterious new story.
Hill teasers readers with a preview of what’s to come – a somewhat modernized grim reaper, meandering across a bridge, wielding a Norse axe and a basket of heads which humorously converse with one another. This was a smart play on Hill’s part, as the narrative set-up of this issue didn’t allow for many horror elements as of yet. It was nice to be reminded of the impending dark tale that’s sure to unravel as the series progresses.
We’re then introduced to our protagonists, June and Liam, as the scene is set: it’s 1983, and Summer’s just coming to an end in Brody Island, Maine. The duo discuss Liam’s Summer job as a traffic cop – the whole thing feels very comfortable, until we’re jolted to an image of a dead suicide victim (though I suspect there’s more at play there, I could be wrong).
Hill seems to have a knack for writing minor elements of horror into the narrative – not enough to be jarringly contrasting, but just enough to reinforce the dark tone of the story. Joe Hill is undoubtedly a gifted writer, but I couldn’t help feeling like the characters all shared a similar sense of voice that resulted in them all sounding exactly the same. If I was reading the dialogue without the visual aid of speech bubbles, I don’t think I’d have any chance whatsoever of knowing who was speaking.
Aside from my minor qualm with the dialogue, Hill presented a highly intriguing story that was enhanced by the incredible artwork. The combined efforts of Leomacs and Dave Stewart resulted in illustrations which effortlessly exude a vintage look. The style of Leomacs’ inking involves a bold use of line and line weight, which is the art style I tend to gravitate towards the most. Stewart’s coloring is one of the best I’ve seen recently. Three subtly separate color palettes are used in different elements of the story, moving with the mood of the plot. Sepia tones combined with subtle grainy textures mimic the static of a vintage television set that perfectly compliments the tone of the series.
One thing that really bothered me about this issue was the lack of character diversity. Every single character in the series so far is Caucasian, and the two key protagonists seem to be the result of heteronormative values. It just seemed like a bizarre decision to make - it actually started to look jarring to me as someone who expects to see diversity in the comic industry wherever possible.
All in all, this issue didn’t give too much away...We know that a group of convicts are on the loose, two of which are armed and in the Chief’s house. June and Liam are isolated in the house due to a huge storm (which gave me major Evil Dead vibes, especially with the art’s appearance). We were also introduced to the fact that the Chief of police has a huge collection of Norse weapons, including the glowing head-lopping axe that a mystery someone will soon be wielding. I’ll actually be surprised if it’s not June under that hood.
So far, it’s not the most spine-chilling tale I’ve ever read, but there’s a whole lot to work with here. Nonetheless, I’m excited to see how things will develop in the next issue...and for the talking heads.