The splendid horror of 'Winnebago Graveyard' fit for the Devil itself

The splendid horror of ‘Winnebago Graveyard’ fit for the Devil itself

Cover to 'Winnebago Graveyard'. Art by Alison Sampson and Stephanie Paitreau/Image Comics

Cover to ‘Winnebago Graveyard’. Art by Alison Sampson and Stéphane Paitreau/Image Comics

By Brandy DykhuizenWinnebago Graveyard hearkens back to the good ol’ days, when humanity still relied on the devil’s influence to account for its most gruesome acts. Shaped by Satan-centric cult films of the ’70s, Steve Niles dives into a full-mooned meeting of demons to suss out the source of evil at its true origin. No matter how much we’d like to pretend other forces are pulling the strings, the onus of evil is always on us.

And isn’t the desert just the perfect place for the stomping grounds of the Dark Lord? Its sands burn hot as hell; it’s full of scaly, slit-eyed herptiles and the canyon acoustics often mean no one can hear you scream.

Winnebago Graveyard uses a Mojave background to get to the meat of the matter right away. We are thrown into the outcome of the story in its opening pages – this is a family vacation that is not going to end well – because it’s the journey into darkness that is most important.

Interior page to 'Winnebago Graveyard'. Art by Alison Sampson and Stephanie Paitreau/Image Comics

Interior page to ‘Winnebago Graveyard’. Art by Alison Sampson and Stéphane Paitreau/Image Comics

Alison Sampson’s art doesn’t so much jump off the page as yank you into the scene, which is arguably the most unsettling effect a horror comic can have. Depicting ritualistic slayings against a backdrop of Joshua trees and flying embers, her carefully constructed chaos leaves lingering chills.

The bloodbath is disorienting, forcing you to really search for where one body begins and where another has split at the seams. The gore never feels superfluous, as Sampson avoids the spectator effect by conveying faces full of shock and terror. You feel more like a victim of the horror rather than a front row ticketholder.

If Winnebago Graveyard teaches you anything in the first issue, it’s to hunker down and lay low when darkness falls. Don’t assume the appealing beckon of distant headlamps and warmly glowing towns will provide shelter. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to follow the light.

Image Comics/$3.99

Written by Steve Niles.

Art by Alison Sampson.

Colors by Stéphane Paitreau.

Letters by Aditya Bidikar.

8.5 out of 10

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