THIS REVIEW OF ‘BASKETFUL OF HEADS’ CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Brendan Hodgdon. These days, it may not be all that shocking to argue that even the most idyllic and cozy of towns are capable of harboring darkness and evil. Even if large swaths of the heartland hadn’t recently reaffirmed their support of naked aggression and bigotry, the ugliness at the core of Small Town America has been explored in many a landmark piece of fiction. That a writer such as Joe Hill should be drawn to stories of this kind isn’t too surprising, nor is the skill with which he accomplishes it. In Basketful of Heads, Hill and the art team of Leomacs, Dave Stewart and Deron Bennett have crafted another quality entry in this storied narrative tradition, whose first issue has only scratched the surface of its potential.
Much of this issue is given over to introducing us to the ebb and flow of the small town of Brody Island, Maine; thankfully, the whole creative team doesn’t miss a beat in rendering this pocket of existence in vivid detail. The patter between leading couple June and Liam recalls every conversation between lovey-dovey college kids harmlessly scheming to find adventure. The family of Sheriff Clausen offer a sense of firm and heartfelt authority that many of us can recall, one shot through with a vague sense of superiority and antagonism towards the rest of the world. It is universal in its specificity, Brody Island, in the way that only the alchemy of fiction can provide.
As well as Hill crafts the sharpened folksiness of the characters and their realm, he is matched by the artistic stylings of Leomacs and Dave Stewart. While June and Liam drive through town at the end of a lazy summer, we can see the comfortable puppy love on their faces in Leomacs’ pencils and feel the warmth of the late-summer sun through their beat-up car windows in Stewart’s colors. “Scenic” is a word that feels just right for a decent chunk of this issue, working in tandem with Hill’s script to make this postcard of a village feel tangible and grounded.
The cumulative effect of all this seemingly-effortless slice-of-life storytelling greatly benefits the few glimpses we get of the dangerous and supernatural forces at play. What these moments lack in sequential real estate they make up for in visceral impact. Of course there is the cold open, showing June much further along in the story and giving us a quick taste of the squicky pulp weirdness awaiting us in future issues—it’s a moment that’s gorgeously foreboding. (This is where Bennett’s letters really shine as he gives a spooky oomph to disembodied bickering.)
But there’s also quieter moments, like Liam’s recollection of cleaning up a dead body, where Leomacs and Stewart’s work becomes moody and somber, letting the unspoken darkness at the edges of this place saturate each panel. In a moment like this, or with the prison break that sets off the plot proper, the creative team feels like hungry wolves, circling these everyday folks as they wait for the perfect moment to pounce. The bumps in the night may not be too loud or common in this debut, but they get your skin crawling all the same.
Even without the titular wicker bundle of disembodied delights, Basketful of Heads #1 would be a moody rural yarn of the highest order. Joe Hill, Leomacs, Dave Stewart and Deron Bennett have crafted a vivid tale of small-town tension that sucks you in with easygoing dread. This first issue may not make for the most terrifying Halloween reading, but it promises to keep the thrills and chills going long after the holiday has passed.
Hill House Comics / DC / $3.99
Written by Joe Hill.
Art by Leomacs.
Colors by Dave Stewart.
Letters by Deron Bennett.
8 out of 10
Check out this 5-page preview of ‘Basketful of Heads’ #1, including a variant cover by Joshua Middleton, courtesy of Hill House Comics, an imprint of DC!
And check out this 7-page FIRST-LOOK preview of ‘Basketfull of Heads’ #2, courtesy of Hill House Comics, an imprint of DC!
$3.99 | M | NOVEMBER 27 (FOC: NOVEMBER 4)